The Seagull gives its namesake play new life, but not much else

While I’d still take the original play over the movie, it is worth a try

Image courtesy of KGB Media and Mar-Key Pictures

By: Natasha Tar

If you’re into intense love triangles, crying, and general drama, The Seagull is the movie for you. Set in a Russian country estate, the film shows the intense relationships that develop between a group of friends and family. Unfortunately, unrequited love runs rampant, and the characters struggle to win their love’s affection.

     I’m a big fan of Anton Chekhov’s 1896 play, The Seagull, that this movie is based on. Going into the movie, I was wondering what kind of twist the director would put on the original. Maybe it would be ‘modernized’ much like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. A few moments into the film, however, I realized I was wrong.

     Director Michael Mayer takes Chekhov’s play and doesn’t really do much to it, other than give it all the details a stage production would lack. As someone who has read the play before, it was cool to see the characters I remembered embodied in a well-known cast. However, I believe that an audience with no knowledge of the play might struggle to keep up with the huge amount of characters and their relationships.

     That said, if you are looking for a beautiful movie with strong acting from everyone involved, this is your show. The dialogue is near-perfectly true to the play’s script, and the actors play their characters faithfully. Saoirse Ronan skips from scene to scene as the naïve, carefree, and beautiful Nina. Meanwhile, clothed in black because she’s “in mourning” for her life, Elisabeth Moss is Masha, a character who is drunk by the early afternoon and always unhappy.

     While these two characters alone provided an entertaining conflict, Billy Howle steals the show as the angsty artist Konstantin. His anger and misery is a driving force throughout The Seagull, and it made sure I didn’t miss anything that was happening on screen.

     As for visuals, the sets are gorgeous and take full advantage of the versatility of film. One of my favourite scenes shows Konstantin angrily playing piano while the guests play a game in the next room, rolling their eyes and commenting on his mood. From Nina’s trip out onto the lake to Konstantin’s disastrous attempt to put on a play, The Seagull is an undeniably beautiful film.

     The visual appeal, however, does not entirely make up for the movie’s blind obedience to the play. As much as I love the play, the film doesn’t add anything new to its foundation, which disappoints me.

     A word of warning: this movie does contain themes of suicide. Despite the fun and humour in many parts of The Seagull, this film is overall heavy and tragic. Unlike happier movies, the love triangles have convoluted and difficult endings.

     Watch The Seagull for its beauty, its unique story, and its strong performances. But if you still remember the play as strongly as I do, prepare for a carbon copy of what you’ve seen before.