The Last Station

According to my Encyclopedia Americana, that eponymous station was Astapovo, although I didn't catch it from the dialogue and I certainly can't read Cyrillic print or Russian. It is where Leo Tolstoy flees as he tries to divest himself of material things and earthly concerns.

Based on Jay Parini's novel by the same name, this is basically a tour de force between the first two highly skilled actors:
  • Helen Mirren ("The Queen") plays Countess Sofya Tolstoy, the desperate wife of Leo who is frantically battling for the rights of his oeuvre so their children will have an inheritance after he dies.
  • Christopher Plummer ("My Dog Tulip") is Count Leo Tolstoy, always seeking ways to find justice for the common man and willing to sign away his legacy to a quasi-religious group of "Tolstoyans" who claim they will insure it through an "eternal quest" funded by his royalties.
  • James McAvoy ("Atonement") is Valentin Buglakov, apparently a real person, assigned to "keep an eye on Tolstoy and write every- thing down." He is a convert to Tolstoyism, vowing celibacy, asceticism, and I don't know what else, which if course goes by the wayside as soon as the first winsome young gal creeps into his room.
  • Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") is Valdimir Chertkov, head of the Tolstoyans who is determined to have the author sign a new will in which his organization gets everything.
McAvoy is basically window dressing. The major thrust of this film is the fiery relationship between the characters played by Plummer and Mirren and the battle between Sofya and Chertkov. Tolstoy has very little use for organized religion, and states that he himself wouldn't make a very good Tolstoyan... We see him flee from the hubbub caused by his out-spoken and short-fused wife, yet he longs for her when they are apart.

Tolstoy was an acclaimed author during his lifetime and there are always photographers hovering in the background at the estate, at the train station, and at his death watch. It's clear that today's paparazzi aren't anything new.