A compelling tale of unrequited love and hope, The Seagull is an adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s absorbing play. Director Michael Mayer has done a remarkable job in bringing this interwoven story to the big screen, doing the source material real justice. The Russian dramatist Chekhov wrote the play in 1895, and The Seagull is generally considered to be the first of his four majors. It dramatises the romantic, social and artistic conflicts of a group of people, and does so in a timeless manner that’s still as fresh and relevant in today’s modern world.
The film is populated with some of the finest character-actors working today. An aging actress named Irina (Annette Bening) visits her ailing brother Pjotr (Brian Dennehy) at their summer home. Her companion Trigorin (Corey Stoll), a successful novelist, observes the dynamic and rustles up a love interest with a local girl named Nina (Saoirse Ronan), who in turn, has bewitched Irina’s son Konstantin (Billy Howle), who is a tortured soul looking for his own validation.
The twists and turns of this love struck tale are plentiful, with every individual story peppered with genuine sadness and strife. But there’s plenty of mirth to be found too. Carefully balancing the two, the narrative sparkles with moments of genuine wit and razor sharp observations. Coupled with the amazing cast who all bring their A-game to the table, you have an ensemble that hits every note it aims for.
Annette Bening leads the cast exceptionally well, and her portrayal of Irina is both magnetic and tragic. To see the contrast and to experience the toil that her public and personal persona plays on her character is wonderfully succinct. Corey Stoll’s Trigorin does a lot of the heavy lifting, and his duplicitous intentions are handled with a delicate, deft touch in Stephen Karam’s screenplay. Never painted as a despicable villain, it’s the grey area that his character operates within that makes Stoll’s performance all the more engaging.
Of course, it’s easy to play someone who has fallen for Saoirse Ronan, who is currently enjoying a meteoric rise to stardom. Her naive innocence as Nina is expertly laid out throughout the film, and her final scene in particular reminds us all that Ronan is, without doubt, the finest actress of her generation. Billy Howle’s Konstantin keeps the uneasiness fresh, and at times he’s quite hilarious too as a petulant young man who’s both lovelorn and utterly uncomfortable.
Elisabeth Moss steals every single one of her scenes as Masha, whose endless pining conjures up some tragically hilarious set-pieces. It’s wonderful to see screen-legend Brian Dennehy back on the big screen. He shines every time he’s onscreen as Pjotr, who has some reflective life lessons to pass onto his family now that he is ill.
The Seagull looks superb too – a fantastic visual style enhances Chekhov’s narrative with picturesque country locations, winding rivers and sun-kissed afternoons all providing dressing for the angst and frustrations bubbling under the surface of all of the characters. Again, director Michael Mayer has done a great job in visualising the narrative and gives the film a timeless feel.
The Seagull is a fine watch for a Sunday afternoon that piques interest and keeps you invested in the story. It may be over 122 years since it first debuted onstage, but what stays constant are the relatable themes of the story. This is something that the cast do exceptionally well in portraying onscreen, and gives The Seagull‘s audience a clever and intellectually-stimulating story to truly bask in. These types of adult-oriented films are getting harder to find these days so enjoy this while you can.
Cast: Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Elisabeth Moss, Billy Howle, Brian Dennehy, Corey Stoll, Michael Zegen, Mare Winningham Director: Michael Mayer Writer: Anton Chekhov (play), Stephen Karam (screenplay) Released By: Thunderbird Releasing Certificate: 12A Duration: 98 mins Release Date: 7th September 2018