Cinema Review: The Seagull

It’s a pretty safe bet with any Russian story written in the nineteenth century that it won’t end in unbridled joy. Or, as Tolstoy famously observed at the beginning of  Anna Karenina, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ But that is not to say that the dramas that unfold are not totally absorbing, reflecting the human condition in a manner that has no truck with western cinema’s reluctance to accept disappointment. Anton Chekov’s play, first staged in 1896 and now revived by American director Michael Mayer, is set in the posh dacha owned by Sorin (Brian Dennehy), a prominent jurist. When his sister Irina (Annette Bening), an actress of renown, and her lover, Boris (Corey Stoll), a celebrated writer, arrive for a summer break, starstruck Nina (Saoirse Ronin), from a neighbouring estate, is immediately smitten by him. Boris has the easy charm of Tolstoy’s Vronsky, which is bad news for Irina’s doting son Konstantin (Billy Howle). An indulged young man with literary pretentions who is wont to throw tanties when his genius is not recognised by his elders, for mine he needed a good boot up the arse. Riven by jealousy, his senseless shooting of a seagull is a heartbreaking symbol of love’s tyranny. Complicating matters is the farm manager’s daughter, Masha (Elizabeth Moss), for she is at the mercy of an unrequited passion for Konstantin and is unabashed in easing her chagrin with alcohol. It is a hand-wringing melodrama, for sure, but Chekov can see deep into his characters’ frailties and desires – more than they can themselves – and with Bening, Ronin and Moss all in top form, it is impossible to not be trapped in the web of relationships. An old fashioned voice-over from the family Doctor (Jon Tenney) tells us of Nina’s later movements and prepares us for the tragic finale. Sumptuously filmed at an estate in forested New York, with veteran designer Ann Roth’s costumes perfectly complementing Mayer’s mise en scène, this provides welcome relief from the sub-adult dross of the mainstream.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers and is brought to you by this week's sponsor Vast Furniture & Homewares Ballina.