Ethan Switch - Monday, 5 April 2010
Now an old bickering couple squabbling over copyright and legacy, now the strength of connective tissue that is love between a man and a woman living out one's final days in a station master's home. Of course, that titular location (Astapovo station - Аста́пово) casts the last breath of Leo Tolstoy and this, an end stem biographic of the slice.
Whatever could happen in the first ten minutes of the film as the doors close and the hand pushes the pull to see the darkness and rows of glimmering light, tracing footsteps along to wait in the sitting area, sweat and pause for the situation a mirror? Bother.
Setting English people in Russian history, The Last Station speaks an accent of the reverence, ideals and influence Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) holds over the Russian people with his works and writings. Enough even to start and hold a movement with members calling themselves Tolstoyans.
Paul Giamatti as Vladimir Chertkov (one of Tolstoy's most ardent followers) juices up his scenes with a wicked impression of conniving that grows in sheer 'stache waxing on every grimace and huff. His presence displays much blind reason in the conflict between Tolstoy and his wife, Sophia Tolstaya (Dame Helen Mirren).
Between Mirren and Plummer exists a wonderfully broken chemistry. The relationship between the two fracturing painfully and delicately to the final days.
Nevermind heartache, however, as it beautifully finds itself a repair, will and all.
On the inverse, the burgeoning sideline romance between Tolstoy's secretary, Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy) and Masha (Kerry Condon) is one which barely gets a leg up. A pair flickering for a moment of cause just enough to seed convenient conflict of principles over heart. Matters not really as it quickly dashes into the background.
For the dovetails of separate and inversing love stories, the film falls more upon the wrestling of copyright and of the Tolstoy's marriage falling away. If anything, it is more a lesson on treachery and keeping your wits about you as your life whispers from its shout.
Plenty of Kodak moments to be had. Literally (brand name notwithstanding). Scenes often pause to capture the old photos fluttering about the halls of history. Momentum fitting enough, there is no pace to break here and is more like an old man needing to sit down now and then to catch what little breath remains.
There is so much jam swirling in tea cups it's hardly a conservative custom. The rate of dunking and spooning strawberry jam is so rife that it's become more than a hint at the dinner stoop to work this magic sugary dollop in with the tea leaves.
Plummer really works the role of Tolstoy with a presence mixing a touch of stoicism and serious intonation. The riddles of fighting over his estate do present themselves as worry upon his pupils as he walks about in pyjamas.
Sad as it is.