Film Review: The Last Station
The Last Station tells the story of the final days of Leo Tolstoy, and the tumultuous relationship he has with his wife, the Countess Sofya. Rather than a biopic, The Last Station is more concerned with the relationship between the two protagonists and what it reveals about life.
Although the focus is on Tolstoy and Sofya, there is a parallel storyline featuring Tolstoy’s new secretary Valentin Bulgakov, and his relationship with Masha, a young female member of the Tolstoyan Movement. Much of the film is seen through the eyes of Bulgakov, and it is clear by the end that it is the lessons learnt by this young man which prove most telling.
The Last Station features an excellent cast, with Mirren and Plummer thoroughly deserving their respective Oscar nods. Mirren in particular is affecting as the troubled Countess. Both the love and the frustration that Tolstoy feels towards her is replicated by the audience, such is the power of Mirren’s performance.
The film emphasises a sharp divide between the discipline of the Tolstoyan Movement, in particular with Giamatti’s Chertkov, and the passion of love and freedom, as demonstrated by both Sofya and Masha. With Tolstoy preaching to Bulgakov the wonder of love, it is clear where the author’s allegiance lay, despite the movement named in his honour. Overall, The Last Station is an affecting and engaging drama, which exhorts the importance of love in a well-rounded life.