Based on the novel by Jay Parini, The Last Station examines Russian author Leo Tolstoy's struggle to balance his commitment to a life devoid of material things with fame, wealth and the needs of his loving wife and family. The movie, written and directed by Michael Hoffman, stars an incredible cast that includes James McAvoy, Helen Mirren, Paul Giamatti and Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy.
In The Last Station, Tolstoy, now an old man, has a legion of devoted followers who are willing to live their lives the way the author has instructed them to. Tolstoy, meanwhile, is much less adamant about his work's lessons and takes everything with a grain of salt. Seen through the eyes of young Valentin Bulgakov (McAvoy), Tolstoy's marriage to his wife (Mirren) unravels as his colleagues attempt to persuade him to write her out of his will and donate his life's work to the people. Meanwhile, Valentin finds first love with Masha (Kerry Condon).
Superbly acted, The Last Station is an intimate drama that explores the lives of several interesting people. While Giamatti has a rather thankless supporting role, McAvoy, Mirren and Plummer all deliver award-worthy performances; both Plummer and Mirren were nominated for Oscars for their respective roles.
While finely crafted, The Last Station unfortunately offers little else beyond the performances. The movie looks good, is well written and engaging, but lacks memorable qualities. Though set against real events, the movie is primarily about a new relationship and an unraveling one; it's nothing we haven't seen before, and The Last Station does little to offer a new twist on the material.
The Last Station is a well made picture with extraordinary performances, but the movie itself is unremarkable. Still, recommended for fans of historical dramas.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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