Unless, of course, you’re a serious student of pre-revolutionary Russia, 20th century Russian history, the course of social movements across the globe, or anything having to do with Leo Tolstoy.
Admittedly, this does minimize the potential audience, at least in the United States, but the filmmakers had to know this going in to the production, and incorporate this into their plans and projections for the financial viability and success of this film.
Sure, there are some strong performances.That’s what you get from the always impressive Helen Mirren, the engaging Christopher Plummer, and the intense James McAvoy.Paul Giamatti is over the top, and implausible in his role as the conniving and deceitful Chertkov, the ostensible leader of Tolstoy’s communal movement.
But there’s too much background that is needed to enjoy, let along appreciate this film.Too much going on to accept what you see on the screen.Too many stories moving simultaneously for us to follow, and too many lead characters chewing scenery that you’re not quite sure who this film is about after all, Tolstoy, his wife Sofya, their relationship, his movement, the impact it had on others, young love, politics, or Russian society writ large in the days preceding the 1917 Revolution.
It’s more than a film about love, despite the many lines to that effect from Christopher Plummer, and the intent of the film to steer us to a universal understanding of life, love, and humanity.