First Hit: An OK version of an Anton Chekhov play.
Unrequited love, that is what this film and story is about. There are amusing ways it is shown. The matriarch of this story, Irina (Annette Bening) is a publicity hound and loves the adoration she receives from the audiences she performs in front of. She has a younger lover, a playwright, named Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll) who is weak of spirit and Irina’s commanding strength controls him.
While visiting Irina’s summer home and home of her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy), Boris falls for Nina (Saoirse Ronan), which makes Irina’s son Konstantin (Billy Howle) jealous because he loves Nina. Konstantin spends most of his time trying to get approval as a writer and attention from his mother Irina.
Masha (Elisabeth Moss) the daughter of property caretakers Polina and Shamrayev (Mare Winningham and Glenn Fleshler respectively), longs for Konstantin but he cannot stand her. Masha is being pursued by a poor teacher and she cannot stand him.
Another unrequited relationship is Polina longing for Doctor Dorn (Jon Tenney) but he wants no part of her.
This is the entire basis of this story and film. It’s appeal is that almost everyone has had this sort of unrequited love in their life.
However, so much at the same time is also the weakness of this film. It is almost not real.
Benning is strong as the ego-based actress that needs to believe she’s the best looking person in the room and is lauded by everyone in Russia. Ronan is divine as Nina. She is one of the best parts of this film and her confusion about her love for Boris is wonderful. Dennehy is good as the brother that is ill. Howle is good as the son who is filled with sadness and pain of rejections from both his mother and Nina. Moss is particularly funny and dramatic. Especially when she’s drinking at the table with Boris and says, all women drink, I just do it openly. Stoll is very good as the subservient man to Irina and his short-lived lust for Nina. Winningham is strong as the caretaker’s wife who also lusts after someone other than her husband. Flesher is especially good as a man that doesn’t want to be ordered around by Irina. Tenney is strong as the doctor who wants someone and rejects someone else. Stephen Karam wrote a strong version of this Chekhov play. Michael Mayer directed this drama with a sure hand.
Overall: I think this story is relatable in this format and overall it worked.