Film #30 of 2010 - The Last Station
Directed by Michael Hoffman, The Last Station focuses on the later life of legendary author Leo Tolstoy (played by Christopher Plummer) and the relationships he has with those closest to him; his wife, the Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren), his dear friend and leader of the Tolstoyan movement, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti) and the newest addition to his flock, Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), his new personal secretary. Though his health is failing, Tolstoy continues to work on both his Tolstoyan movement and his current work, while becoming entrenched in the middle of a battle of wills between Sofya and Chertkov over the disposition of his eventual estate, with Chertkov wanting all of Tolstoy's assets and future earnings to go to "the people" and Sofya desperately trying to hold on some assets for herself and their large family.
Going into The Last Station, I knew that I could expect some stellar performances at the very least. Plummer and Mirren are both amazing actors whose talents have only strengthened over the years. What I didn't expect was for the film to be so good. With a richly layered screenplay that gives the viewer things to think about long after the film is over, The Last Station is extremely intelligent and deep without becoming dry, boring or overstuffed. Even McAvoy, who, on his best days can usually eke out no more than a just decent performance, I have to admit that he had much more to offer in this film than simply being eye candy. Though the conflict between Sofya and Chertkov was the crux of the problem and the undoing of many things, I really liked that I had to really think about who was right or wrong in the situation, even after I had left the theater.
Certainly, The Last Station contains an excellent and compelling story, with great performances and beautiful scenery, costumes and camera work (who would have thought the director of Soapdish, one of my guilty pleasure movies could turn out such a respectable film?) but the real standout of the film is the beautiful love story between Tolstoy and Sofya. Their relationship is indeed volatile, and they seem to have more "downs" than "ups", but their love is truly passionate and romantic and true. Plummer and Mirren are astonishingly believable in their roles, and in expressing their love for one another. These are two actors who are legendary at this point, and deservedly so. Mirren is especially captivating, and was so amazing in her role that I'm starting to believe, after being on "Team Streep" for months in the Oscar race, it would be tragic if she didn't win the statue for this role. (She won't.)
I mentioned on my Twitter feed that if you want to see a real romance, forget the current films, Dear John and Valentine's Day. There is nothing real about films like that - it's beautiful movies like The Last Station that make my heart hurt and shows what true love really is.
4 stars out of 5