by Xavier Toby in New Film on Thursday 6 May 2010

All humans want to be remembered after they die, even if they don’t admit it. Most have children to accomplish this, and others have children, write fiction and then delve into philosophy in their later life. Count Leo Tolstoy is more the later, and this film focuses on the period as he approaches death.

Tolstoy is under pressure from the leader of a movement he inspired to hand over the rights to his work so that, the cult leader claims, they may be read as widely as possible. Paul Giamatti turns in a stellar performance as the controlling sycophant Vladimir Chertkov, however the standout is Helen Mirren as a tortured and passionate Sofya Tolstaya. The tale is presented through the young and sexually awakened Valentin Bulgakov, a newcomer to this schizophrenic household. By no means a thrilling ride, but still a compelling and thoughtful meditation on the mistakes even the most intelligent of us can be drawn into.