Ryan Gilbey at The New Statesman:
The last time Geoffrey Rush was cooped up on screen in a tatty grey room with a well-spoken man, the result was The King’s Speech, not so much a film as a machine for winning Oscars. Final Portrait, in which Rush plays Alberto Giacometti during the weeks in 1964 that he spent drawing the writer James Lord (Armie Hammer), is a subtler, warmer piece that has few of the earlier one’s imploring, manipulative tendencies. Anyone familiar with movies about artists toiling over their canvases may be minded to bring a cushion to the cinema: Jacques Rivette’s La Belle Noiseuse ran for four hours, Victor Erice’s leisurely documentary The Quince Tree Sun for nearly two-and-a-half. At 90 minutes, Final Portrait is scarcely more than a doodle by comparison, but that briskness suits its philosophical points.
It begins with a casual request by Giacometti to Lord. Would he consider sitting for a portrait? It should only take a few hours at the artist’s studio in Paris. An afternoon at most. Arriving at the cluttered studio, Lord finds an artist whose idea of an ice-breaker is to tell him he has the head of a brute. He tries to remain chirpy even as Giacometti offers the first hint that the project may be doomed. “I’ll never be able to paint you as I see you,” he grumbles. “It’s impossible.”