With documentaries, it is sometimes embarrassingly obvious that the movie that ends up in the movie theaters is not the movie the filmmakers thought they made. And The Final Year, Greg Barker's new film about the last year of the Obama administration, is for obvious reasons a clear example of the phenomenon.
Barker focuses on the foreign policy team, which consisted of Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. He gets reasonably good access to them, and follows the trio from Washington to assignments in Laos, Nigeria, Japan, Greenland and elsewhere. I usually give the bluff in movies that have "humanization" as a goal – I already know that people are people – but I have to admit that certain moments really moved me. Power, often ridiculed by the left as an interventionist hawk, simply appears worthy and decent in meetings with the mothers of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram, in scenes with her children and during a ceremony of awarding citizenship to, among others, her own maid, where Power breaks down in tears as she recalls her own emigration from Ireland. Rhodes is certainly a bit of an asshole, but a smart one; his complete. . .