Over the weekend, we saw The Woman in Gold. Starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds, the movie is the true story of Maria Altmann, who battled the Austrian government to reclaim a family painting (the stunning Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, or Woman in Gold, by Gustav Klimt) that had been stolen by the Nazis.
The movie probably isn’t going to win any awards (it has a 52% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but the story is fascinating. After her sister dies, Maria is sorting through her things and discovers correspondence related to a previous attempt to reclaim the portrait of their aunt, which the Austrian gallery had claimed had been bequeathed to them in the aunt’s will. Intrigued by the revelation that previous lawyers had never been able to view the will itself, Maria hires Randy, the son of a friend and a young lawyer struggling to establish himself.
The Austrian government views the portrait as a national treasure and is not prepared to let go without a fight. You can stop reading here if you’re worried about spoilers – but it’s not hard to guess that the movie has a happy ending. (How depressing would it be if, after all the personal sacrifices that were made and soul searching that was done, the movie simply ended with our heroes in defeat?)
Even after Maria and Randy dig up the original copy of the will – as well as some other documents proving that the painting is being held illegally by the gallery – an Austrian restitution committee refuses to return the painting. Randy and Maria find a loophole allowing them to sue the Austrian government in American courts. Unsurprisingly, the Austrian government opposes that, and, before you know it, they’re appearing before the Supreme Court. The eventually agree to mediation, and then to have the dispute arbitrated in Austria. After reviewing the evidence, the arbitration panel finds in favor of our heroes, and justice prevails.