You will not have learned of this movie. It didn't even show here in the country. Sige, aaminin ko, the only reason I even bought this film is because James McAvoy is in it. And maybe because Helen Mirren was nominated in this year's Oscar's for Best Actress. I'm thankful for this 2 very shallow reasons though because it led me to finding a movie that, in my opinion, competently portrayed the conflicted life of the famed Leo Tolstoy.
As a litgeek, of course I know who Leo Tolstoy is. I could name his novels and essays, and maybe, perhaps, infer on a couple of reasons why he was such a big man in Russia. But the truth is, I haven't read War and Peace. It makes for such an excellent doorstopper that I haven't had the heart to rid it of it's only purpose at home. This movie though lent me a new perspective on his writings. It wasn't all about telling a story. It was also about changing the world. Tolstoy suffered through a crisis of fate, and he emerged with an ideology that most of the Church's precepts are just plain verbiage and snook. Of course, he got excommunicated by the Catholic Church for his efforts (of course). But it didn't stop him from writing. His message was simple: All religions have one truth in them, and only one. The word for that truth is LOVE. Ambitious. And yet it earned him a congregation. The movie chronicles Leo Tolstoy's last days: his quarrels with his wife Countess Sofya, his inevitable signing over of the copyright of his works to the public, and his death at a train station. Hence, the title of the movie.
But aside from the politics of the Tolstoyan movement, it also tells the story of 2 love stories: One that has run its course for 48 years and suffering a breakdown, and another at the beggining, at the cusp of something beautiful just about to bloom. It re-awakened in me my long dormant fascination with the Russians --- something that started with my Romanov fever back in high school. It also helps that the film featured the best actors at the peak of their performances: Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, c'mon! Not to mention, Paul Giammati, James McAvoy and his wife, Anne-Marie Duff. This is what I will hold as my standard from now on when I read or hear the words "Stellar Cast".
I hope someday, when you have the time enough to be truly engaged in a complex story line, you'll also sit down and pop this into the DVD. It doesn't have things blowing up in it, or people having torrid torrid sex (well, a few love scenes), but like a song, it is lyrical and soft and pure.
Helen Mirren and Anne-Marie Duff as the women in Tolstoy's life
Paul Giammati can play the anti-hero, now it proves.