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'The Seagull' offers strong performances, Chekhovian sorrow

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

Saoirse Ronan shines in a tender, wrenching performance as the lovelorn Nina.

Saoirse Ronan stars in 'The Seagull.'
Sony Pictures Classics
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Anton Chekhov reportedly stated that his play “The Cherry Orchard,” a hallmark of tragicomedy, was, in fact, a comedy. With all due respect, the great Russian was dead wrong, but you can kind of see what he means.

In most of his plays, none more so than “The Seagull,” everybody is in love – but with the wrong people. The latest film adaptation of “The Seagull,” directed by Michael Mayer and adapted by Stephen Karam, does a creditable job of orchestrating Chekhov’s sorrowful romantic roundelay (although the decision to open with the final scene and then flash back is an unnecessary harbinger).

The best reason to check out the film is for Saoirse Ronan’s tender, wrenching performance as the lovelorn Nina, and, especially, for Annette Bening’s fantastic turn as Irina, the grand dame of the Russian theater whose most tumultuous work occurs offstage. Bening is capable of being waspish, consoling, frail, indomitable, and woebegone – sometimes all at once. She turns “The Seagull” into a play about the hellish sacrifices one makes for art.

Grade: B+
Rated PG-13 for some mature thematic elements, a scene of violence, drug use, and partial nudity.

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