DRAMA; 1hr 52min
STARRING: Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Christopher Plummer, Paul Giamatti
Bedtime story: Plummer and Mirren
By 1910, in the final year of his life, renowned Russian author and aristocrat Count Leo Tolstoy (Plummer) has formed a religion and renounced materialism. “Wealth corrupts us all,” he proclaims through a cloudy scribble of beard. His imperious, possessive wife, Sofya (Mirren), stews in helpless fury as Tolstoy oversees a latter-day commune near his impressive estate and plots with his acolyte Vladimir Chertkov (Giamatti; McEvoy is Tolstoy’s star-struck new secretary) to reject his family wealth and leave the rights of such whopping novels as War and Peace and Anna Karenina to the people of Russia.
The Tolstoy at the centre of film-maker Michael Hoffman’s fluid, unstuffy study is fatherly and self-deprecating, driven to distraction by Sofya’s moods and scenes — which grande dame Mirren plays to the flamboyant, pain-hollowed hilt — and squabbled about by those close to him like a prize piece of meat. How ironic that a man so dedicated to love should find himself ensnared by it, his declining life more torrid and conflicted than any epic plot.