The weaknesses in the filmmaking are swept up and kept afloat by the force of nature that is Ai Weiwei. But you really can't do the subject justice if the director doesn't have equal fortitude. A true rebel would have pressed harder about the selfish contradiction represented by Ai's illegitimate child without fear of pissing him off.
The way Wei (sorry) is presented reaches rapidly a point of questionable dichotomy. He’s truly devoted to the cultural and political cause but looks naïve and jelly when asked about his son; he doesn’t recognize his father artistic influence but clearly had a weight on him; and last, the american early years show his narcissistic pursuit of egotism supremacy.
Ai Weiwei is not a revolutionary, he is the revolution. The contemporary artist's father Ai Ping was a famous poet critical of the Communist regime in the 1950s, and Ai Weiwei is clearly his father's son. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry offers an intimate perspective on the artist whose creativity spills out over all media, finding audiences online and through social networks beyond the formality of a gallery. Excellent work.
Now I wouldn't call Ai Weiwei a charlatan, but watching this movie with someone who would prompted me to view the man, his work, and this film more cynically than I would have otherwise. Does Ai promote himself more than his art? Shouldn't the film tell us whether there have been any reconstruction efforts in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake and Weiwei's subsequent criticism of the collapsed "tofu-dregs" schools?
The movie turns Weiwei's very poignant struggle into a hollow depiction that looks much more interested in making a western propaganda. It works only with weiwei's rebel-artist-political-activist persona, the one we already know, the one from the TV interviews... it makes me wonder if there ever was an interest on going passed this superficial level of depiction, which can be so useful.