I saw The Last Station today at the Paris Theatre. It's a biopic about the last days of Leo Tolstoy. It focuses on the struggle to control his estate and the copyright of his works between his followers and his wife of 48 years. At the center of the story is the underlying theme that all there is love, to love and be loved. It stars Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti, Anne-Marie Duff, Kerry Condon and John Sessions. The love story, tempestuous at times but lasting, between Leo and Sofya Tolstoy is humorous and heartbreaking at once. Helen and Christopher play these characters with luminescence and passion.
The film itself is beautiful. It's set during the summer time and was filmed in Germany. The scenery, costumes and setting are breathtaking. I confess that I knew nothing about Leo Tolstoy except he was a Russian who wrote Anna Karenina and War and Peace, which I've never been able to finish. I didn't realize that he started his own religion. The story seems to pit Sofya against his followers whom she claims don't even understand what his truths are. The followers, lead by Giamatti's character (does anybody play asshole better?), just seem like they are controlling and conniving. It's interesting, but confusing at times. Also, while it was all in English, I had trouble following the names that they called each other which were said in the Russian way, i.e. adding the "evich" at the end of everybody's names. (It didn't help my overall enjoyment that the old woman sitting behind me held a running commentary of her dislike for a majority of the scenes and even during the credits was spouting untruths about Dame Helen Mirren, at which I finally turned and glared at her.)
However, I am glad saw it, satisfying my desire to see Helen Mirren on the big screen again. Christopher Plummer, although not looking his usual dapper self, was a gem as Tolstoy.