Movie review: The scathing new documentary follows the final year of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts around the world. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
What if the Obama administration had been given a third term? What if, instead of being plagued by greed, scandal and suppression of science, the presidency of 2017 had been driven by altruistic motives? Could there have been an alternative to the disgrace we’re living through, a universe in which the wrongs of the past year were systematically righted?
A scathing new documentary, “The Final Year,” does not pretend to have all the answers. But it suggests the questions in a provocative account of President Barack Obama’s final year in office. The temptation to say “I told you so” runs strong, but so do several more generous approaches.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The Final Year,’ a documentary directed by Greg Barker. 89 minutes. Not rated (includes mild profanity). Grand Illusion, through Thursday.
U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, a former journalist and Harvard professor, is especially eloquent in her outreach to people in trouble spots around the world. She actually sits down with victims and, through a translator, talks with them.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- Treasure hunter finds 3,000-year-old hoard in Scotland
- Why you should watch the gorgeous 'In the Mood for Love' | Movies with Moira
- Seattle's Lady A confronts white privilege in battle with country stars and beyond
- Here's the latest detective novel to catch our book critic's eye | The Plot Thickens
- Antonio Banderas says he's tested positive for coronavirus
When she suddenly makes a connection between a lost boy and her own 7-year-old son, the movie finds its empathic center. The mother’s grief is real. Power’s attempts to comprehend it couldn’t be more sincere.
Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have their own kinds of epiphanies, and so does Ben Rhodes as a “residential confident” and longtime pal of the president.
During much of 2016, they consistently tried to emphasize diplomacy over battle but made little progress, especially when confronted with Syria and Russia. Looming over their efforts is the current occupant of the White House, whose increasing viability as an electable candidate disconcerts them.
The film builds slowly but inevitably to an Election Eve finale that leaves most of them speechless. You can feel the pain and the sense of waste. All those speeches and plane trips to foreign countries seem to add up, in retrospect, to exactly zero. Unless, of course, you’re on the other side.
In the end, “The Final Year” can offer only the perspective of time and history as a consolation. The film closes with Obama, on a state visit to Greece, wandering through the ruins of the Parthenon as a raucous version of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” (performed by a group called the Brothers and Sisters) blasts away. The sense of goodwill and possibilities lost have the power of a tragedy.