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There still is a real Tolstoy family, who live in Yasnaya Polyana in Russia. This film was made with their support and they like the film, although they were surprised that one could laugh about Lev. (If you look closely, you can catch Anastasia Tolstoya, an Oxford graduate, in a short scene at the end of the film.) See more »
After Tolstoy signs the letter, Bulgakov is seen with the buttons on the right side of his collar instead of the left. It appears the film has been flipped. See more »
There is nothing to fault in this movie, really, and pretty much everything to praise.
The script is very good. The characters are fleshed out and developed in complexity as the movie goes along. You continue to learn more about them, see more facets of their character.
And they are realized by first-rate performances. There is not a weak one in the batch.
The direction is also very fine. There is not really much of a plot here; it's more of a character study. Still, the director keeps things moving along, never veering into the sentimental or the cute. You grow to like these characters a lot, but there is no attempt to yank your emotions.
My only very slight reservation about this movie is just a personal preference. I went into it knowing virtually nothing about Tolstoy's life or the movement that was developed out of his later writings. I would have appreciated a little dialogue somewhere explaining more about that. I realize, however, that that is not the norm in modern movies, and I certainly had no problems following what was going on without it. Viewers such as myself will just have to go read a book about Tolstoy for that additional information, which is certainly not a bad thing.
This is not a film for the ages, a Citizen Kane or a Rules of the Game, a Potemkin or such. Still, it is a very well-crafted movie, one that I could easily watch again with no diminished pleasure. One that, as well, I can recommend to anyone who enjoys good acting and watching interesting characters being developed by and through it.
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