A film about the final days of Russian author Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, Anna Karenina) may sound like a bore to the average moviegoer, and indeed, The Last Station is admittedly a very bookish, Merchant-Ivory, costume-drama sort of film. But it's also utterly engrossing, superbly acted, and full of ideas about life and love that ring true and hit hauntingly close to home.
Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Emperor's Club), Station tells the story of Tolstoy's final year, but even though it's a film about the end of a life, it's certainly far from a tragic or even melancholy tale. But it's definitely dramatic. Rather than living out his final days in peace and quiet, Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), a worldwide celebrity and iconic figure, finds himself in the middle of vicious battles between warring factions within his own household. His wife Sofya (Helen Mirren) demands his loyalty to the family and maneuvers to make certain that his will provides plenty of financial security for the family. At odds with Sofya is Tolstoy's right-hand-man Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), the head of the worldwide Tolstoyan movement (a sort of utopian Christian anarchism). He wants Tolstoy to donate his estate to "the movement" (even the copyright of his books), to ensure the Tolstoyan legacy. Sofya wants her husband to honor his family, while Chertkov wants Tolstoy to honor his ideals.
Also in the mix is Valentin Bulgakov (James McAvoy), a wide-eyed young devotee who joins a Tolstoyan commune and becomes Tolstoy's personal secretary—"planted" by Chertkov to spy on the conniving shenanigans of Sofya within the Tolstoy household. While a member of the commune (which, among other things, requires celibacy), Valentin meets a pretty girl, ...1