A film boasting a stellar cast, The Last Station
is the story of the last year of life of Leo Tolstoy. Played here by Christopher Plummer, the film doesn’t tell you a great deal about the man himself, but it does nonetheless deliver some terrific, grown-up drama, as the arguments and battles surrounding the latter decisions in his life surface.
And that means that there’s room in The Last Station for one of the best ensemble casts of recent times. It was Helen Mirren who picked up a Best Actress Academy Award nomination here in her role as Sofya, but truthfully, Oscar’s gaze could have gone in lots of directions. Paul Giamatti puts in wonderfully understated work once more, for instance, and James McAvoy adds another fine turn to his increasingly interesting career. Fortunately, Oscar saw sense and did reward Christopher Plummer with a Best Supporting Actor nod for his outstanding portrayal of Tolstoy, too.
Perhaps it should have spared some light for director Michael Hoffman, too. He takes difficult subject matter here, and shapes it into a compelling, enriched drama with plenty to enjoy. Not for nothing did The Last Station creep gingerly towards the top of some people’s best films of 2009 list.
Almost inevitably, cinema audiences gave The Last Station a miss. But if you’re in the hunt for a strong period drama that’s ripe for DVD discovery, then do consider giving it a spin. --Jon Foster
Historical drama based on the last chapter in the life of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. Christopher Plummer stars as the famous writer, who is nearing the end of his life after a long period of ill health. He lives with his family in a compound at Yasnaya Polyana, attended to by his wife and the disciples of his 'movement': a group of people dedicated to his ideas of pacifism, vegetarianism, sexual abstinence and communal property who have gathered in a nearby forest camp. When the head of the movement, Vladimir Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), urges Leo to rewrite his will to posthumously renounce his material possessions, thereby leaving his family with nothing, Tolstoy's wife Sofya (Helen Mirren) does all she can to influence her husband and protect her inheritance.