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The Last Station (2009)

1 rating: 5.0
Drama movie directed by Michael Hoffman

Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, and James McAvoy lead an impeccable cast inThe Last Station, a sweet comedy-drama about the final days of the Russian novelist Tolstoy. Nineteenth-century paparazzi lurk outside of Tolstoy's estate, hoping to snatch … see full wiki

Tags: Movie
Director: Michael Hoffman
1 review about The Last Station (2009)

The Idealism and Realism of Leo Tolstoy

  • Jun 24, 2010
Rating:
+5
So much has been written about the evolvement of the movement toward social equality the grew out of the second half of the 19th century Russia that we often forget the gentler side of the true meaning of 'socialism': unfortunately it is inexorably tied to the now negative noun 'communism' and has colored the world view of the 20th century, losing sight of the original dreams of those who championed the beginnings of it. THE LAST STATION takes us to that time when the kinder aspects of of the movement reigned. Celebrated writer and essayist Leo Tolstoy was deeply admired by the Russian people not only for his immense gifts as a writer, but also for his humanitarian concerns that created a solid movement at the end of his career. Could a Count, man of wealth and royalty, forsake his worldly possessions (including the rights to the royalties of his books) and spread his belongings to the people of Russia? If the answer were requested from his Countess wife Sofya the answer would be an emphatic NO!: this headstrong woman refused to consider letting her rights to her husband's writings (which she helped create) evaporate into the hands of the 'ignorant poor masses' upon her husband's death. This conflict forms the meat of the story related by THE LAST STATION.

Writer/Director Michael Hoffman beautifully adapted the novel by Jay Parini and selected a perfect cast to recreate this important period of time around the final days of Tolstoy's life. Christopher Plummer is able to give us a fully realized portrait of the conflicted Tolstoy. Paul Giamatti seethes oily evil as Tolstoy's principal disciple Chertkov, a man so driven to make Tolstoy's life's work into public domain that he alienates almost everyone he encounters. Helen Mirren reveals all the love and passion and fury and rage as Sofya in a performance so richly detailed it must be seen several times to appreciate all the nuances. James McAvoy is the central figure of the story - the appointed secretary Valentin who is sent to Tolstoy's magnificent home to record all of the events developing in the Tolstoyian movement, a movement that included living in a commune where Valentin encounter's Masha (Kerry Condon) who helps him shed his outer shell of protective innocence to discover the true heart of Tolstoy's movement - Love! Significant cameos are portrayed by Anne-Marie Duff as Tolstoy's daughter Sasha, Patrick Kennedy as Sergeyenko, and John Sessions as the doctor, Dushan. The film is a work of brilliant conversations, moments of history unraveled in a perfect way, and yet it is a film rich in comedy and in passion and in the struggle between a long married couple coming to grips with the change in the social milieu of the day. The title refers to the isolated train station where Tolstoy died and the range of loss of dignity and retention of emotional power is mightier than the whole of changing Russia. The musical score is by Sergei Yevtushenko ('The Russian Ark') and the moody cinematography is by Sebastian Edschmid.

THE LAST STATION is a breath of fresh air for those who long for meaningful movies these days. It calls upon the intellect, it satisfies the yearning to observe first class acting, and it dares to tell a story that will encourage discussion after seeing the film. Would that there were more like this. Grady Harp, June 10

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