The Last Station—Movie

The Last Station, based on the novel by Jay Parini, and written and directed by Michael Hoffman, is the engaging story about the last days of Tolstoy and the war for control of his heart, soul and pocketbook between his wife, Sofya, and Vladimir Chertk, the chief disciple of his Tolstoyan philosophy.

When Christopher Plummer (Leo Tolstoy) and Helen Mirren (Countess Sofya Tolstoy) were announced as Oscar nominees, I wondered whose places they took that were more deserving. I wonder no more. As a long-married, long-suffering couple who may not be able to live together, but can’t live without one another either, these two give a master class in acting. The chemistry they generate is palpable. They are absolutely wonderful.

That Mirren is fabulous is no surprise. Coming to prominence in movies later in life than most actresses, she always gets the most out of a line or look without ever going over the top. Mirren literally throws herself into the role of Sofya and The Last Station is the better for it.

Plummer, who seems to be sporting the same beard he wore in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, shines as Tolstoy. It makes one wonder why he doesn’t work more often, he is that good.

Also central to the film are Paul Giamatti as Vladimir Chertk, Tolstoy’s disciple and major thorn in Sofya’s side (he hurls the ultimate insult to Sofya, “If I had a wife like you, I would have blow my brains out or gone to America”) and Tolstoy’s Tolstoyan personal secretary, Valentin Bulgakov, played by Jame McAvoy. Both are very good in their respective roles, especially McAvoy, who in addition to the role of peacemaker between the varying parties, has his own story, which in many ways mirrors the story between Leo and Sofya.

Special mention must be given to Sergei Yevtushenko for his original music. His beautiful score adds the perfect touch to The Last Station.

Though a tad longer than it needs to be, The Last Station is definitely worth your time.  The Tolstoys are fascinating characters and this movie definitely does them justice.

3 nuggets out of 4

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