In a series of flashbacks throughout the movie, Maria Altmann (Dame Helen Mirren) recalls the arrival of Nazi forces in Vienna, and the subsequent persecution of the Jewish community and the looting and pillaging conducted by the Nazis against Jewish families. Seeking to escape before the country is completely shut off, Maria Altmann (Tatiana Maslany) and members of her family attempt to flee to the United States. While Altmann and her husband, Fritz (Max Irons), are successful in their escape, she is forced to abandon her parents in Vienna. In the present, living in Los Angeles, a now elderly and widowed Altmann attends the funeral for her sister. She discovers letters in her sister's possession dating to the late 1940s, which reveal an attempt to recover artwork owned by the Bloch-Bauer family that was left behind during the family's flight for freedom and subsequently stolen by the Nazis. Of particular note is a painting of Altmann's aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, now known in Austria as the "Woman in Gold".