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The Last Station

~ Academy Nominees ~ Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor ~

A melodramatic account of the tempestuous final year of Leo Tolstoy’s life, The Last Station’s meaty roles are acted to the hilt by a cast more than ready for the feast. Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren shine as an aged but still passionate couple at odds over the disposition of the great Russian novelist’s legacy, a dispute rife with personal jealousy as well as ideology. In his energetic old age – in 1910, he’s still writing and riding horseback – Tolstoy (Plummer) lives on a grand if disorderly country estate and presides from a distance over a quasi-political cult based on tenets of Tolstoyan philosophy such as pacifism, social equality, vegetarianism and celibacy, rules the lusty old man personally admits difficulty in adhering to. The central issue at home, however, is the status of Tolstoy’s will as regards the proceeds of his literary estate. Long assumed to be the provenance of his wife, the Countess Sofya (Mirren), royalties are now being claimed by Tolstoy’s chief disciple, Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), as the rightful property of the Russian people. Very close, he believes, to getting the old man to sign away his life’s work to the public domain, Chertkov engages the fastidious, worshipful young Valentin (James McAvoy) to become the writer’s new assistant and Chertkov’s spy, obliged to record and report everything said in the fraught household. The awestruck Valentin is warmly welcomed by the writer, who, in Plummer’s seductive, appealingly naturalistic performance, instantly emerges as a real man, not as a self-important legend. This Tolstoy does not need his ego bolstered by flatterers and sycophants; well aware of his status, he turns attention back on those around him. Tolstoy loves his wife, but she occupies another realm altogether. A devotee of Italian opera, she adores melodrama and injects it into her daily life whenever she believes it applies, which is often. She has given her husband 13 children in their 48-year marriage and helped him immeasurably with his work, copying out War And Peace six times. So she seems justifiably pained by her husband’s willingness to be influenced by his ‘boyfriend’ Chertkov. While Tolstoy tries to get on with work and ignore the circus swirling around him, Sofya acts out, fainting, falling into a pond and, most successfully, seducing her husband all over again. She’s a lusty, mercurial, demonstrative and intelligent woman, a perfect fit for Mirren, who fleshes out those traits and more with judicious abandon. – Todd McCarthy, Variety

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Directed by: 
Michael Hoffman
Running Time: 
Germany, Russia, UK
Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon
Screenplay by: 
Michael Hoffman, based on the novel by Jay Parini

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