A period romance set during the last year of the life and turbulent marriage of the great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his wife the Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren). Now playing in cinemas nationwide.
Based on Jay Parini’s 1990 novel of the same name, Last Station is a charming and compelling account of Tolstoy’s last year. Writer-director Hoffman does a fantastic job of keeping the action bowling along while also giving his actors time to develop their rich characters.
And what performances they give. Plummer (The Sound of Music) is delightfully earnest and eccentric (think somewhere between Anthony Hopkins’ John Kellogg and John Neville’s Baron Munchhausen) as the world’s, then, most celebrated writer, while Mirren gives an emotionally raw and fraught performance as his long complaining/suffering wife. There are echoes of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in their bickering (“You insist on making this an opera house”) but beneath it all you can sense the 48 years of companionship.
Almost equally impressive is the near-forgotten James McAvoy. As in The Last King of Scotland, he plays a private advisor with an armchair view of history and like that film he portrays the moral dilemma he finds his character placed in with subtlety and strength.
Music plays a significant part in the film with Sergei Yevtushenko’s (Russian Ark) elegant score combining magnificently with selected operatic pieces (a fight building in tension in time to an aria is a highlight).