The Final Year
For his documentary The Final Year, about the last twelve months of the Obama presidential administration, director Greg Barker is granted insider access reminiscent of the New York Times documentary Page One and generally makes the most of the exclusive opportunity.
With the clock ticking to implement its policies before passing the proverbial baton to those who will follow, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes scatter the globe, visiting the sites of new and/or recurring issues as they arise.
The subjects seemingly unaffected by the cameras’ presence, the film moves between tensions in Syria and multiple African nations, diplomatic friction with Russia and attempts to atone for U.S. actions in Hiroshima and Laos that continue to resonate for their respective people.
Brief glimpses at the colleagues’ home life help flesh out their characters as not simply workaholics and there’s a fairly consistent tone of them and Obama being on the right side of history, but The Final Year isn’t a film of complete praise. Barker shows some blemishes, such as Rhodes being quoted as saying the White House press corps know nothing and Power’s tragic convoy in Cameroon.
20/20 hindsight also allows the director to be critical of the players — and Democrats in general — not thinking Donald Trump had a chance at winning the presidency, and the long faces on election night are almost equal parts devastating and damning.
Grade: B-plus. Not rated but with some adult language. Starts Jan. 19 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Magnolia Pictures)