I’ve always been a sucker for films that give us insight into the creative processes with which great artists must contend. I love to hear characters talk endlessly about what makes them want to create something out of nothing and drives them endlessly to pursue their craft regardless of whether it will be warmly received or not. There’s some of that going on within the parameters of the latest adaptation of the Anton Chekhov play, The Seagull, and that’s where the good stuff is found.
Unfortunately, The Seagull, drifts off into the less thrilling romantic entanglements of its characters more often that I would have preferred and this is mostly to the film’s detriment. As long as there were writers and such talking about the act of artistic creation I found it to be enthralling. Sadly, the percentage of the film where this actually happens is only a small portion.
Image: Annette Bening in The Seagull
The always dependable Annette Bening leads an impressive cast which also includes recent Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Elisabeth Moss (Handmaid’s Tale). With actors of that caliber you’d think a film like this couldn’t miss and yet there’s a feeling of staleness that permeates throughout and a certain air of rigidity. It’s a bit too timid to reveal raw emotion at times when that very thing is needed the most.
Much of the film revolves around the romances of both the playwright, Constantine (Billy Howle) and his muse (Ronan) and Constantin’s mother (Bening) and the writer, Trigorin (Corey Stoll). There are other characters on the periphery but it basically boils down to a simple scenario along the lines of ‘he loves her but she loves someone else’ and vice versa. Most of this plays out against the backdrop of a beautiful country estate.
As I said there are moments of great insight here and there but The Seagull never really lets its hair down, so to speak, in a way that I’m sure the play is capable of when effectively staged. It’s a missed opportunity that only occasionally comes to life but not quite enough.
The Seagull opens at The Manor Twin in Charlotte on June 15.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org.