The Last Station

Rated 4.0

Writer-director Michael Hoffman, adapting Jay Parini’s novel, recounts the last few months in the life of Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his turbulent relationship with his wife of 48 years (Helen Mirren). Where Parini interwove the diaries of six different characters, Hoffman simplifies things; we see events through the eyes of Tolstoy’s young private secretary (James McAvoy). Plummer and Mirren could hardly be improved upon, and the matching of the performers to their roles and to each other is the movie’s crowning glory. McAvoy and Kerry Condon, as a spirited young woman on Tolstoy’s commune who tests the secretary’s vow of celibacy, provide a youthful counterpoint to the lusty, full-blooded old Tolstoys, while Paul Giamatti is wonderfully creepy as Tolstoy’s implacably oleaginous disciple.