Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll, Brian Dennehy, Billy Howle
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
…well and truly worth seeing.
Set in and around the year 1904 – partly in Moscow, but mostly on a beautiful lakeside rural estate – The Seagull is an adaptation of the Anton Chekhov play. It’s a somewhat complicated saga of romantic entanglements, and thwarted relationships – and ambitions. The cumulative tension gets us in, though the incongruous American accents are initially distracting.
Saoirse Ronan plays the young stage actress Nina, who’s smitten with the successful author Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), whose partner Irina (Annette Bening) is chronically self-obsessed… It all sounds rather melodramatic, but it works.
The abiding effect of this story is to leave us with an infectiously unjudgemental feeling, a realisation that – however overblown, misdirected or neurotic – people’s pains, discontents and emotions are not to be casually dismissed. That the individuals with whom we are made to empathise are the idle rich of late-Tsarist Russia makes the achievement all the more impressive.
Virtually all the credit for the trenchant dialogue and finely delineated characterisation should, obviously, go to Chekhov himself rather than the filmmakers. But the performances are strong, especially on the part of Ronan, Bening and – admittedly in a minor role – Elisabeth Moss as the hapless Masha. When she says that she always wears black because “I’m in mourning – for my life”, it’s both startling and poignant. This is not quite the full high-octane stuff of a classic version, but it’s well and truly worth seeing.