Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry tells the story of the famous Chinese activist, artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, going from when he made a massive work of art for the 2008 Olympics and subsequently protesting the Olympics after he realised all the human rights violations behind them and to him being arrested for tax evasion three years later. In the meantime we also get to know his background and who this man really is.
It’s clear from the outset that Weiwei is one cool, charming and brilliant man. He’s a true original and one of a kind, fighting for good causes in original and innovative ways as well as being a brilliant artist. This is a man whose works of arts are sometimes quite literally a big “Fuck you” to the Chinese government (like the picture here above). With a subject this fascinating it’s hard to go wrong and the man and his story are enough to carry the movie.
Fortunately director Alison Klayman does a solid job, showing the many facets of his life and work and keeping things at a good pace for the most part. The movie is educational without being too didactic but it’s also highly entertaining. It’s also a little on the conventional side and maybe not as stylistically innovative as Weiwei, but it does the job.
On the other hand it also feels a little one-sided, the film reveals many facets of Weiwei but it still feels like more could have been revealed. Weiwei gets arrested because of tax problems connected to his company and you start wondering how he can afford to do everything he does. Do all his art exhibitions really pay that well? The movie also starts to drag a tad in the final section, going into multiple ending mode and being a little too obvious with its message. It’s hard not to like Weiwei but it would have been interesting if the film would have been a little more critical towards him. He’s clearly a great man but nobody’s perfect.
Final verdict: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is an entertaining and educational portrait of a truly marvelous individual. But it’s also a little conventional and feels a tad one-sided.