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film review
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Left to right: Brian Dennehy as Sorin, Saoirse Ronan as Nina, Jon Tenney as Doctor Dorn, Glenn Fleshler as Shamrayev, Barbara Tirrell as Olga and Mare Winningham as Polina in The Seagull.Abbott Genser/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

  • The Seagull
  • Directed by: Michael Mayer
  • Written by: Stephen Karam
  • Starring: Annette Bening, Elisabeth Moss and Corey Stoll
  • Classification: PG; 98 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

Eschewing any clever contemporary update, director Michael Mayer offers an old-school but highly cinematic version of the Anton Chekhov play about a group of actors, writers and hangers-on unhappily gathered in a country house. As film, the results are often fabulous. They begin with a deft use of flashback from the action’s dark conclusion; they continue with wonderfully detailed and lively camera work that catches the sparkle in Annette Bening’s eye as she plays the actress Irina dominating her many dependants, and follows the seduction of the ingénue Nina (Saoirse Ronan) as it moves out onto a rowboat in the middle of a lake. As spoken drama, however, the piece is not entirely successful: The script by Stephen Karam recalls traditional British translations and, despite many excellent moments, the all-star cast can’t always banish a certain old-fashioned staginess. Billy Howle, in particular, has difficulty making the unhappy Konstantin’s melodramatic lines and heavily symbolic actions seem youthfully earnest rather than stilted. But then, who has ever seen a Seagull where that damned bird did not drop with a thud?

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