To imagine someone making a film about the legendary writer Andrey Tolstoy is nowhere near impossible, but to envision someone making a good film about said author…now that’s something else entirely. Bio pics are becoming more and more frequent as basic ingenuity to conceive new ideas is for some reason dwindling. Director Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station takes all the good qualities from such films and throws them into his movie.
The plot revolves around not just an aged Tolstoy, but the people who he has come to surround himself with towards the end of his life. I mean, yes, there is more to the movie then just that, and it’d be a crime if you read that sentence and lost all manner of curiosity about the movie. Let me say, early on, that The Last Station is a good movie. Like most films, it has its faults but they don’t take away from the overall beauty.
James McAvoy, starring as the young would-be writer Valentin Bulgakov, does his job nicely of taking the lead of the movie, despite the fact that what we’re watching is about Tolstoy. I may feel this way because of my strong like towards the man, but I always feel McAvoy does a great job in whatever he’s in, and taking on the part of a shy Russian, who sneezes whenever he gets nervous, is a part that he takes well.
The movie though, focuses on two loves. The one between Tolstoy, played by the beloved Christopher Plummer, and his wife, and Valenitin and his first love. Plummer and Helen Mirren, as Tolstoy’s wife, each do acting a just service in this film. The dynamic that these two people portray on screen is startling and passionate. To take your eyes from then for even a second is a challenge onto itself.
In The Last Station you get the chance to see how relationships form and how they can end. Marriage is an especially complex thing, as most married folk will probably tell you, and the movie portrays this very well. You get to see that Tolstoy and his wife, while always the bickering couple, love each other more than words can describe, even if they are throwing plates around the dining room in a fury brought on by the other. Paul Giamatti who is the story’s “villain” is wonderful. When I say wonderful I mean it in the sense that he acted so well that I hated his character. Full of deceit and cunning, Giamatti’s role is one that’s very easy to hate. After not too long of sitting through the movie, I found myself constantly wishing that someone would just punch the man upside the head.
I think the only thing I found disagreeing about the film was the speed at which it went. The movie is only a few minutes shy of 2 hours, but the filmmakers ensure that you feel almost every grueling moment of the film. Like one of Tolstoy’s ridiculously long works, the movie takes the time it feels is required in order to deliver you to the finish. Granted, there aren’t that many unendurable moments, but those that there are…it would have been nice if things could’ve been sped up.
Regardless, I found the movie to be very touching, especially towards the end, as you are witness to true love. Yeah, that may sound kind of silly, and maybe it is, but it’s still endearing. If anything else, The Last Station does show the complexity of love and what it takes to stay with those you care about.