"Worthy Rendition of Chekhov’s Penultimate Play"
What You Need To Know:
THE SEAGULL is adapted from Anton Chekhov’s 1895 play. It does a decent job staying true to the original, while paring it down to a respectable 98 minutes. At first, it’s jarring to hear English speakers portray Russians, but that fades. This SEAGULL has no foul language and contains positive Christian references. However, its story of unrequited Romantic desires contains implied sex, attempted adultery, gambling, suicide, and brief drunkenness. Strong caution is advised, especially for children and teenagers.
THE SEAGULL takes place on a Russian countryside estate near the turn of the 20th century. The estate is owned by retired government worker, Sorin, and his sister, Irina, a legendary actress who spent decades on the Moscow stage. Worried about growing older and losing her reputation, she fiercely clings to her lover, a famous author, Boris, who also happens to be at least a decade younger. She also guards her legend by belittling her son, Konstantin, and his young love interest, Nina. Konstantin is an aspiring writer of plays and stories, but he rejects the traditional styles and is in search for a modern approach that transcends petty dialogue and vulgarity.
Konstantin has written a play and prepared a stage in the woods by a lake on the estate for it to be performed. He’s given Nina the starring role and invites everyone staying there, about a dozen friends and family, to watch. While Konstantin’s eager for the approval of his mother and Boris, Nina is nervous to perform in front of his famous mother, Irina. She wants to be the next legend of the Moscow stage and is afraid she won’t measure up to Irina’s expectations. Konstantin reassures her she’s a wonderful actress, but the play quickly falls apart when the lofty, abstract dialogue fails to entertain. Konstantin is crushed by his mother’s belittling of his craft, as she claims that it’s not real theatre and perhaps writing isn’t his forte.
Konstantin begins a downward spiral of depression, especially once Nina notices Boris and falls for the older author. Konstantin’s jealousy is not only over his lost love, but for Boris’ success as a writer. He feels he will never achieve anything he desires in life and even fails at attempting suicide.
Meanwhile, Masha, the estate manager’s daughter pines for Konstantin while rejecting the constant attention of a poor schoolteacher. Konstantin wants nothing to do with her, however, so she wears black and mourns for her life. Her mother, Polina, is secretly in love with the doctor, Dorn, who looks after Sorin’s failing health. It is Sorin who eventually brings everyone together when he’s overtaken with a terminal illness.
THE SEAGULL is adapted from Anton Chekhov’s 1895 play of the same name. It does a decent job at staying true to the original text, while paring it down to a respectable 98 minutes for the screen. At first, it’s jarring to hear Brits and Americans portraying Russian characters who make constant references to Moscow, rubles, and Russian life. However, as the movie progresses, this issue fades into the background, and the character portrayals become quite entertaining. Masha provides the most comic relief as a woman realizing she’s getting too old to be picky about love and nurses a surreptitious running gag of drinking her troubles away.
Remarkably, this movie has no profanities or obscenities, perhaps because Konstantin scorns their use in theatre, which was a mirror of Chekhov’s views on the matter. There are some Christian references such as a church choir, and sentiments such as “God bless you.” However, this is a story about love primarily, and it’s full of unrequited romance, often between unmarried partners. As such, sex is implied but not shown, and adultery is attempted, but not successful. Of course, pursuing romantic love without the benefit of God’s divine guidance can often end in misery and tragedy, and that’s what happens to most of the characters in THE SEAGULL.
In addition, Masha’s drinking reaches the point of inebriation a couple times in THE SEAGULL, and alcohol is shown in several scenes. A game of gambling takes place, and Konstantin skinny-dips in the lake and shows his fully nude backside. Suicide is also central to the story, and it’s partially depicted with some blood. A seagull is also hunted and shown being carried around after being killed.
Because of THE SEAGULL’s objectionable elements and mature themes, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong or extreme caution, particularly for children and teenagers. By the way, the movie’s title refers to the Russian common gulls you might see around a Russian lake, not the typical seagull that usually frequents coastal areas and oceans. The Russian language makes no such distinction apparently.