Russia has a rich and diverse history when it comes to literature and the arts. One of the greatest playwrights to hail from the ‘motherland’ is Anton Chekhov. His greatest works are considered to be The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Seagull. However, after the negative reaction to the premiere of the latter, Chekhov swore off theatre. Thankfully, three years later it was successfully revived and became a huge success. Michael Mayer’s adaptation brings it to the big screen.
Irina Arkadina (Annette Bening), an ageing once-famous actress, visits her brother (Brian Dennehy) and son Konstantin (Billy Howle) on a country estate over the course of a summer. Other guests include a local girl Nina (Saoirse Ronan), who is in a relationship with Konstantin, and a successful novelist Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), who is Irina’s lover. When the naïve Nina and the worldly writer fall in love, emotions run high and relationships become fraught.
It’s an incredibly difficult task to adapt Chekhov’s work for cinema audiences. The most successful example is Winter Sleep. However, whilst Nuri Bilge Ceylan used one of his short stories as a base for his 2014 hit, Mayer faced a much more complicated challenge with one of the author’s most celebrated plays. The impressive cast manages to convey the subtleties and nuances of their roles, it’s beautifully shot and there’s a lively pace throughout. The Seagull is a playful and complex relationship drama which doesn’t quite fully translate to the big screen.
The Seagull is in cinemas from 7 September.