The other night I went to see a movie all by myself. In a movie theater! As I walked by the Paris Theater in New York City on my way to work one day, I saw that The Last Station was playing there and decided, on a lark, to see it after work. I hadn’t read a review of it, didn’t even know if it had a happy ending or not. But the fact that Christopher Plummer (the Baron from The Sound of Music) and Helen Mirren were in it—and there was a picture of them, as old people, in bed with happy faces—made me desperately want to see it. Go figure.
It turns out Christopher Plummer plays Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. And Helen Mirren plays his wife. The essence of what the movie is about is Tolstoy’s struggle to balance his desires as a philosopher and writer with his love for his wife, who has been his partner in every way up until his last years. I don’t want to spoil it for you, except to say that it is a gorgeous, gorgeous movie that is funny, sad, and quite surprising, and meets highly with my approval.
And it’s one of those movies that stays with me in a good way, that I keep thinking about as I fall asleep, and at odd moments during the day. I think about how life in 1910 before cars and electricity and phones was so very, very lovely. I think about being a writer, and having followers who take on your meaning as their own, sometimes in good ways, and sometimes in bad ways. But most of all, I think about love, and the power of love, and how love really hasn’t changed too much over time, except that it is now more possible for more people.
And then I think about how 10 or 15 years ago, all the talk in women’s magazines was that there were no “good movie roles for older women.” That was before the world knew about Helen Mirren. I still quake at the power of her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. What I love most about her is that she hasn’t tried to use surgery to continue to look young, and she doesn’t try to fit herself into roles that aren’t appropriate. As a result, she looks better than young—she looks fully, richly alive.
Anyway, The Last Station is a really good movie. If you get a chance, go see it!