The Last Vermeer

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Last Vermeer Movie Poster Image
Post-WWII drama paints intriguing but mature picture.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 118 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No substantially positive messages, but movie makes the point that the value and importance of an artist or their work is subjective and arbitrary.

Positive Role Models

Capt. Joseph Piller, who was Jewish and a Dutch Resistance freedom fighter-turned-soldier, acts with compassion and integrity. 

Violence

Criminals are shot dead in public executions. A heroic character is quick to start a fight and land a punch. Threats, including with a gun. Failed suicide attempt. Implied beatings, with characters appearing bloodied and freshly bruised. 

Sex

Full-frontal female nudity in a realistic painting. A model is completely naked, with sensitive parts covered. Kissing within the context of infidelity. Women at a party wear only lingerie. Veiled mentions of sex.

Language

Occasional strong language includes "a--holes," "bulls--t," "damn," "goddammit," and a couple uses of "f--k." Threats and hostile language. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking throughout; main character is seen drunk. Characters smoke. A character mentions how free drugs and alcohol lured people to parties. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Last Vermeer is a historical crime drama about the 1945 trial of art dealer Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), who was accused of selling an important cultural treasure (the art of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer) to the Nazis. The film assumes that viewers understand what took place during World War II and why consorting with Nazis -- like attending parties with them or selling them goods -- was considered traitorous. Without that context, it will be hard to understand the townsfolk's bloodthirsty demand for retribution. Violence includes firing squads and fistfights. There's also a failed suicide attempt and a threat with a gun. One wild party shows women wearing slinky lingerie while men are fully dressed. Full-frontal female nudity is seen in a realistic painting, and characters kiss. Drinking is frequently featured, as is smoking -- accurate for the era. Occasional strong language includes "bulls--t" and "f--k." This is a fascinating, largely forgotten true story. And while it questions the subjective nature of how art is valued, the takeaway is about the struggle of dealing with moral ambiguity in a world that wants to see people in terms of "good" or "bad."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKen R. July 15, 2021

The Last Vermeer - Did He or Didn't He?

This very good-looking production dares to take on several contentious issues. Such as the role of the Dutch resistance before and after the fall of the Reich,... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Based on a true story (and adapted from Jonathan Lopez's book The Man Who Made Vermeers), THE LAST VERMEER takes place in Amsterdam in the weeks after the fall of the Third Reich. Capt. Joseph Piller (Claes Bang), a former Freedom Fighter and a Dutch Jew, is assigned to recover art and cultural treasures from the Nazis. When his investigation leads him to art dealer Han van Meegeren (Guy Pearce), who's believed to be a Nazi collaborator, "bad" and "good" are no longer clear-cut.

Is it any good?

Director Dan Friedkin dips his brush into the complicated emotions following World War II, masterfully painting an exquisite portrait of two men that's dripping with the messiness of human nature. He begins by muddling the clarity of strict definitions of right and wrong, which is how Piller sees the world. Piller, a Jewish man who'd joined the Dutch Resistance, is now working to rectify wrongs by recovering stolen art and returning it to the rightful, usually Jewish, owners. At the same time, the Dutch government is tracking down those who consorted and conspired with the Nazis. When the two investigations lead to the same man, van Meegeren, the film's real purpose becomes clear. What is morality? What is integrity? While we can look at the extreme ends of the spectrum and see people in terms of good (Freedom Fighters) and bad (Nazis), the actions of many lie in the middle. So then what?

This twisty story is accompanied by top-notch cinematography, phenomenal production design, wonderful costumes, and excellent acting. Bang drums up such a dashing image of righteousness frayed by emotional anguish that it's hard to believe he can play anything else. (But he can: He plays a despicable rogue in another art drama, The Burnt Orange Heresy.) And Pearce portrays the inscrutable van Meegeren with controlled zeal -- the restraint is to deliver believability, as apparently the real van Meegeren was truly a smug, flamboyant charmer. The Last Vermeer isn't perfect. There are moments that could use a bigger pronouncement, as well as some underexplained character relationships. But it's pretty darn good -- and for teens, it could be an intriguing vehicle to help understand the aftermath and psychology of a harrowing war. And for a more timely debate about cancel culture, it offers an excellent look at the complexities of character. Or try this: It's part of the rationale for why history proves over and over that society is willing to overlook criminal acts by larger-than-life con men.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Capt. Joseph Piller demonstrates compassion and integrity in The Last Vermeer. Compare that to the survivors' demands to see justice served to their opportunistic neighbors. What conclusion do you think the filmmaker wants you to draw?

  • Han van Meegeren died a hero; what do you think his fate should have been? How should we contend with people who do something positive in one way but could also be seen as having moral failures? 

  • Talk about Adolph Hitler's plunder of art and artifacts. Like van Meegeren, Hitler was a failed artist. Do you think if the art world hadn't rejected him, history might be different?

  • What did Nazi occupations during World War II mean in terms of survival for that country's citizens?

Movie details

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