Idealism and living those ideals in the real world is only one of the intriguing issues that screenwriter/director Michael Hoffman wrestled with in adapting THE LAST STATION from the book by Jay Parini to the screen. When I talked to Michael Hoffman on January 6, 2010, he explained how he used Anton Checkov to get the right tone for this exploration of the last days of Tolstoy’s life. The other issue, the politics of true love that lasts a lifetime and the implications of that, good and bad, was, he confessed, something that fascinated him. Certainly, the portrait he creates of the Tolstoy’s marriage to Sofya is one of the most striking cinematic examinations of the marital state. He went into deatil about that while also touching on proto-papparazzi, making a film in English about Russia’s greatest writer, and why James McAvoy is criminally underrated.
THE LAST STATION recounts the final days of Count Leo Tolstoy and the stormy, passionate relationship he had with his wife of 48 years, Sofya. The film begins with the arrival of a new secretary, Valentin, a dedicated Tolstoyan, who finds his own difficulties in staying true to the ideals of the utopian community Tolstoy founded, the same difficulties, so he discovers a the great man himself. Hired by Tolstoy’s longtime friend, Chertov, to assist Tolstoy with his writings, he is also tasked to spy on Sofya, who suspects Chertov of influencing Tolstoy into signing away the copywright to his early works. Meanwhile Valetin himself is tested when he falls for Masha, a tolsoyan with her own ideas about what constitutes being true to Tolsoy’s ideals.
The story encompasses contradictions of idealism in a messy real world, the difference between inspiring a social movement and keeping it going, as well as the wonder and pain of love. The film stars Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy, Helen Mirren as Sofyia, Paul Giamatti as Chertov, Kerry Condon as Masha and James McAvoy at Valentin