New review: The real story of The Last Station

// 15 June 2010

Many married women will identify with Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Sofya, in a film set during the last months of Leo Tolstoy’s life, argues Rosjke Hasseldine

Reading the reviews of the movie The Last Station confirms my fears – its ages-old story of a wife screaming against invisibility within her patriarchal marriage has been completely ignored. I do wonder how many reviewers even recognise this story.

I don’t think they recognise how poignant and, sadly, very relevant this experience still is for women today. They seem to have swallowed whole the long-held patriarchal interpretation that a screaming wife must be histrionic, out-of-control, emotionally unstable or manipulative. An interpretation that completely denies the questions: why is she screaming? What is she actually asking for? What emotional needs are being denied?

The Last Station tells the story of the final months of Leo Tolstoy’s life, highlighting his relationship with his wife Sofya (Helen Mirren), and the fight over who has control over the continuation of Tolstoy’s ideals, estate and the all important copyright.

But, underneath the arguments between Sofya, Tolstoy and Tolstoy’s disciples, is a far more emotional and human story. It is a story that sadly reflects the reality of many wives whose need for recognition, love and nurturing is denied in a way that twists her needs into a sign of her emotional failing, rather than a problem within the marriage and her husband’s ability to connect.

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