The Last Station is a movie about redemption. It’s a movie that tells the story of the basic human need for forgiveness and continuity and love. Set in the early 20th century Russia, this movie is centered around the last days of Leo Tolstoy, famous writer of Anna Karenina and War and Peace. Tolstoy had founded the Tolstoyan movement. However, his wife, the countess Sofya, does not agree with those views, especially regarding the relinquishment of private property, and is more worried about sustainability than about her husband’s movement.
The Last Station is the story of the struggle of everyone against the countess, as they try to bring her down to get her husband’s movement to triumph. And in the center of that story is love, be it the love that existed for over forty eight years in the marriage of Tolstoy and the countess or the newly developing love between Valentin (James McAvoy), the new secretary, and Marsha, a woman who lives in a Tolstoyan colony. And how can love survive in a movement that calls to love everyone equally, where loving someone else preferentially is breaking the rules – the rules that even Tolstoy himself cannot but break.
Nominated for several academy awards, especially in the acting department, this movie is simply excellent. Helen Mirren, in her role as the countess, delivers a powerhouse performance as the woman trying to ensure that her way of life remains the same throughout everything. She portrays the hurt of a woman who feels her husband doesn’t love her anymore and embodies the frustration of not being able to communicate with him like before, which she blames on those her husband had befriended after starting the movement.
The actor who plays Tolstoy, Christopher Plummer, delivers a rich and multilayered performance of the man lost between the principles he set for himself and others and his basic need as a human being: love for his wife and family. The Last Station is the battle of the protective wife and a dominant advisor, all going in front of Valentin, another great performance by James McAvoy, a man whose basic needs have been clouded over the years by his sense of belonging to the Tolestoyan movement.
The beauty of The Last Station is that it shows even the greats, like Tolestoy, are basically human after all. They have their flaws and needs and, regardless of how sophisticated they may be, at the end, they are as simple as we all are. A truly magnificent conclusion, indeed.