Saturday, October 17, 2009


By D.E.Levine

Director: Michael Hoffman
Writer: Michael Hoffman (screenplay) and Jay Parini (book)
Cast: James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Helen Miren, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon, Patrick Kennedy, John Sessions, David Masterson, Tomas Spencer, Nenad Lucic and Maximillian Gartner
Producers: Bonnie Arnold, Chris Curling and John Meruer
Executive Producers: Andrei Konchalovsky, Robert Little, Phil Robertson and Judy Tossell
Associate Producer: Andrey Deryatin - Russia
Assistant Producers: Luke Carey, Melanie Faul, Yvonne Huttig and Jona Wirbeleit
Ruunning Time: 112 Minutes
Country of Origin: Germany and Russia
Language: English with Russian

There are absolutely stellar performances by James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer and Helen Miren in this biopic film.

This is a period piece about the last days of Leon Tolstoy and if the material is true then we see that Tolstoy may have been brilliant but his family was as dysfunctional as any non-celebrity family.

The film begins in 1910 with the hiring of Valentin Bulgakov as Tolstoy's secretary. Caught in the middle of a power struggle between Countess Sofya (the wife) and Vladimir Chertkov (leader of the Utopian movement founded by Tolstoy, Bulgakov finds his loyalties repeatedly tested and is amazed by the nature of the Tolstoys 48-year marriage.

Tolstoy had celebrity status and an entourage of reporters and photographers following him around. As the Tolstoys long-term marriage flounders and disintegrates, Bulgarov meets a woman working on the Tolstoy farm and begins a relationship with the flush of new, young love.

Plummer's portrayal of Tolstoy is riveting, convincing as the genius but exhibiting human frailties. The skillful makeup makes him look amazingly like the photographs with which the public is familiar. You never glimpse Plummer the actor, since he disappears completely into character.

Beautifully filmed, the cinematography transports the viewer to Russia visually while the writing, directing and acting evoke deep emotional responses. Regardless of whether you believe in Tolstoy as a great author or a Utopian leader, emotionally this picture touches the inner feelings of the viewer resulting in sadness, disbelief and amazement.