Review / ‘The Seagull’ (M) *** and a half

DIRECTOR Michael Mayer’s second feature after a career in telemovies (the first being a 2006 remake of an American classic, “My Friend Flicka” that seems not to have made much impact in Australia) is one of two separate cinema productions of Anton Chekhov’s play released this year.

Stephen Karam’s adaptation of the play for Mayer’s film runs for 98 minutes. The acting is fine, the location is verdantly pleasant, the story in three acts is worth telling. While enthusiasts may deplore its truncation of the original, enough of Chekhov’s acerbic mixture of comedy, romance and misfortune remains to deliver its observation of Russian middle-class life in 1904.

Leading a strong cast, Annette Bening plays ageing actress Irina, spending a summer holiday at her family’s country estate. Saoirse Ronan plays Nina, an aspiring actress setting out to seduce Trigorin (Corey Stoll) away from Irina. Elisabeth Moss is strong as Masha for whom life holds few prospects. Billy Howle is Konstantin who shoots the seagull as a gift for Nina. Brian Dennehy is fine as Irina’s brother Sorin, expecting to die any time now and making the most of it.

This year’s other film version was made by South African writer/director Christiaan Olwagen. I’ve no idea how often Chekhov’s play gets performed nowadays. I liked Mayer’s film more than the stage production I saw in Melbourne several years ago with Sir Ian McKellen in it.

At Palace Electric, Dendy and Capitol 6

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