Under the accomplished direction of Michael Hoffman, The Last Station takes its audience to Tolstoy’s last days: an emerging international movement, the great passion and frustration of his life, the Countess Sofya, his young secretary/pupil, Valentin Bulgakov, and Vladimir Chertkov, the head of his movement.
In 1910, during the last year of writer and philosopher Count Leo Tolstoy, his idealistic disciples, led by Vladimir Chertkov, turn against Countess Sofya, his more practical and family-oriented wife. The Count and Countess have a 47-year long loving marriage, but his idealistic and spiritual side begins to contradict with her more down-to-earth and conventionally religious views. With the Tolstoyans attempting to persude a new will which would negate all of his copyrights, Countess Sofya is faced with adequate support after his death. The will and its implications are seen through the eyes of Valentin – who finds himself meditating between the two sides. In the end, the Count reluctantly signs the will, and leaves his wife who bore his 13 children to travel to an undisclosed location where he can continue his work undisturbed and unjudged. Sofya unsuccessfully attemps suicide; Tolstoy sickens during the journey. The film ends with his death near the Astapovo train station where the Countess is allowed to see him for one very last time.
Although the 2-hour movie takes a look at Tolstoy’s last days, focusing mainly on his relationship with Sofya, one can still learn a lot about his whole life – both his ideology and personal struggle. It is definitely not a typical pure love story – but it presents two different love stories: one that nurtures while destroys, and another one that tries to avoid committment. And Valentin somewhere in between the two.
A tour de force performance by Helen Mirren – aggrieved, charming, seductive, furious, painted as hysterical at times but also a woman with her own dignity… I strongly recommend you to see this surprisingly warm, delicately photographed, whimsically scored and patiently paced story about the great writer of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, whose philosophy was about love and peace. Yet love he had in abundance; peace did not arrive.