The Seagull: Film Review

The Seagull is one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous plays and it has been adapted many times, so I feel ashamed to say that I’ve never seen a version of it, on stage or screen, so I couldn’t possibly vouch for how this new take, directed by Michael Mayer and adapted by Stephen Karam, holds up against others.

The film revolves around love triangles and unrequited love. Renowned stage actress Irina (Annette Bening) returns to her family’s country home for the summer with her lover, the lauded writer Boris (Corey Stoll). Local girl Nina (Saoirse Ronan) falls under his spell, despite being in a relationship with Irina’s son Konstantin (Billy Howle). Boris becomes torn between Irina and Nina, and Konstantin, a budding writer, becomes inconsolable with jealousy and feeling worthless.

Because the play is so old, I expected the film to be this stuffy, high-brow period piece but it was more accessible and easier to digest than I predicted. It was also pretty funny, mainly thanks to Bening and Elisabeth Moss, who is in love with Konstantin. I liked the script and found the different dynamics within the family house an intriguing watch.

The cast are impressive, particularly Bening, who is self-obsessed yet insecure, a woman worried about losing her looks and losing her man to a young girl. Then we have Moss, who plays Masha, a depressed woman who is dealing with the pain of Konstantin not loving her back with drugs, cigarettes and booze. She is so sad that it’s almost funny and she’s hysterical when she’s drunk, although Moss, who I love in The Handmaid’s Tale, also gives her emotional weight, she isn’t just comedy value.

The women in the cast were definitely the strongest. Stoll was fine, and I was confused by Howle’s American accent, which seemed to come and go all over the place. I liked him in On Chesil Beach but here he was overdoing things and his accent needed work to sound more natural.

The location and costumes (especially Irina’s) were incredibly stunning and the whole thing was shot beautifully. I cannot fault it visually. I can’t really pinpoint what the exact issue was, but I felt unmoved by the ending, which should have been shocking and upsetting. It was too subtle and understated and when it cut to the credits, I was like ‘is that it?!’ It need a bigger moment.

The cast and script were largely good and I found it easier to get into than I feared, but The Seagull was just OK. It was a pretty pleasant watch that’s not hard to follow or enjoy, but it just didn’t do anything particularly special.

In selected cinemas from Friday 7th September 

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