I was afraid this was going to be a rather gloppy movie – too much talk, too many emotions randomly floating around, too much crying. Where I end up sitting lower in my seat and just mentally shouting out ‘Get on with it’.
It was instead an inside look at some fascinating history. Russian author Count Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), in 1910, with two factions in his household: the Countess, his wife of 48 years (Helen Mirren), trying to protect the future for those of her 13 children still alive, and Chertkov, head of the Tolstoians (much more pure than the man himself), who wants the income from Tolstoy’s books to go to the Tolstoyan Society. Tolstoy’s new secretary (James McAvoy), swearing that he is totally celibate, ends up being in the middle of battle after battle. And forgets all about celibacy during an affair with a young Tolstoian (Kerry Condon).
There is a wonderful emotion-ranging love scene between the Count and Countess – good to see older folk getting it on. And a fair amount of screeching and dramatics. I did love the plate-throwing scene, having always wanted to do that.
The ending was sad, but beautiful and perfect. Very right. I kept thinking about the perfect storm that was going to descend on Russia in just a few years, with the 1917 Revolution, and about how these idealistic efforts of the Tolstoians played into that.
A very good movie.