JANUARY 19, 2018 -- It's only appropriate that on the anniversary of Donald Trump's first trouble plagued year in office, that director Greg Barker and Magnolia Pictures release a film detailing the last year of Barack Obama's presidency. Oh what a difference 12-months makes.


Barker focuses three key players in the Obama White House who were trying to lock down a bucket list of goals before leaving office. Secretary of State John Kerry, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes allow the documentarian's camera to follow them around as they work on critical goals.

Kerry is trying to reach some sort of agreement with Iran to keep them from developing nuclear arms. Power is trying to reckon with the issues in Nigeria while downplaying the issues in Syria. Rhodes is patting himself on the back fro being Obama's right hand man for the last nine years - until he becomes critical of the White House press corps.


For one hour the documentary is one long party as everyone seems to be forging ahead, making progress which includes the Paris Climate accords. As time begins to wind down the team, along with the rest of the White House staff begins to prepare for a hand off to Hillary Clinton.


The final half hour makes the film feel more like a narrative as Trump steals the election and suddenly things don't look well. Moreover, Syria becomes a huge miscalculation, Rhodes throws an insult at the press that sounds very Trump-like, Kerry still doesn't know if he accomplished anything with Iran. The change in the atmosphere is stark, including the expected celebratory party Power throws that soon feels like a funeral.


Obviously, the White House was confident with themselves which is why they gave Barker unprecedented access to meetings, UN conferences and the international travel agenda.


"The Final Year" is a more than decent study of optimism and hope that turns into despair and regret. Although it doesn't really give any solutions, it does offer an insiders look at defeat.   -- GRADE B --   GEOFF BURTON