Sundance 2014: The making of the Mitt Romney documentary

PARK CITY, Utah -- Mitt Romney may have a home in Park City, but he's not the kind of person you'd expect to attend a movie at the Sundance Film Festival, whose programming leans liberal, particularly among the documentaries.

But the former presidential candidate dropped in to the first Sundance screening of "Mitt," an unusually candid and largely flattering look at Romney shot over the course of his two presidential campaigns.


Filmmaker Greg Whitely was given entree to Romney and his family, yet shut out from the campaign strategy meetings that are the staple of movies, books and articles about the political process. His access being the mother of documentary invention, Whitely decided to focus his film on Romney's interactions with his wife, Ann, and their adult children.

The resulting film is filled with a variety of surprisingly personal (and often private) moments, including two scenes of Romney and his family praying. (Whitely, like Romney, is a Mormon.)

The candidate frequently is seen realistically sizing up his prospects and his image -- telling his kin he can't escape being known as "The flipping Mormon" -- and doing the kinds of things, such as ironing a shirt while he is wearing it and picking up garbage, that you might assume a candidate's staff would handle.

"Mitt," debuting Friday on Netflix, unfolds almost entirely in hotel suites and airplanes (including one in which Romney sleeps on the floor), convention center hallways and holding rooms.

Romney is seen celebrating with his family after he trounced President Obama in their first debate, and then fretting with them after he makes a huge gaffe in the second encounter.

Through it all, Romney scarcely comes across as the robotic technocrat that -- in addition to his remarks about "the 47% of people" who would automatically support Obama because they "believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" -- doomed his candidacy. "I think I'm a flawed candidate," he confesses to his relatives at one point.

Yet when he finally contemplates what he needs to say in his concession speech as his youngest grandchildren fight back tears, it's impossible not to be moved.