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Uncle Vanya film review


Directed by: Ross MacGibbon, Ian Rickson

Written by: Conor McPherson

Starring: Roger Allam, Richard Armitage, Anna Calder-Marshall, Toby Jones, Aimee Lou Wood

Film Review by: Vikas Yadav


Uncle Vanya Film Review

Ian Rickson’s stage production of Uncle Vanya (based on Anton Chekhov’s play of the same name) gets a life on the screen under the direction of Ross MacGibbon. Filmed at the Harold Pinter Theatre in August 2020, Uncle Vanya is packed with a spectacular cast who hypnotize you with their terrific skills and dialogue delivery. There is no dull moment here as every second draws you closer into this poignant setting before finally breaking you to pieces in that aggressively charged third act (more on that later).

Uncle Vanya poster
Uncle Vanya poster

Divided into four acts, Uncle Vanya deals with themes of love, lust, beauty, ambition, money, and heartbreak. The whole affair is drenched with sadness and not just within the play. The sights of empty theatre seats joined with melancholic music create an air of despondency. If you survey the set, the room in focus is in the state of decay. The sofas are ripped, the floor is covered with dry leaves, and the furniture is haphazardly arranged. The room needs tending and so do the occupants of this estate. Everyone and everything is gradually disintegrating.

Watching Uncle Vanya is like helplessly witnessing a group of people digging their own graves. They participate in illicit, unrequited, and one-sided romance. Yelena (Rosalind Eleazar) has captured the hearts of Vanya (Toby Jones) and the country doctor named Astrov (Richard Armitage). The problem? Yelena is already married to Serebrayakov (Roger Allam), a retired university professor. To further complicate the matter, Sonya (Aimee Lou Wood) has fallen for Astrov. The problem? Astrov does not reciprocate her feelings. While talking to her, he looks right through her while she glues her eyes on him with extreme adoration. It’s not difficult to figure out Sonya’s love for the doctor, but the man is blinded by Yelena’s beauty and his passion for environmental causes. He ardently talks of planting trees and what magic it does to him from the inside.

The characters in Uncle Vanya live with regrets. Vanya wishes if only he had proposed to Yelena when they first met years ago. Yelena mourns her life and griefs on her choice of marrying Serebrayakov. What seemed to be true love at one point in her life now appears as a case of infatuation. The subjects, instead of getting out of the pit, surrender to their wretched fates. With pressure constantly mounting, Uncle Vanya explodes with a bang in the third act when Serebrayakov decides to sell the property. I swear I would have been devastated if I had been there in the same auditorium as the actors during this segment. After watching Uncle Vanya on my laptop, I am not sure if I can ever submit myself to view this version live at a theatre solely because of this overwhelming sequence.

This is the first time I have witnessed a recorded play in the form of a film. It took some time for me to adjust to the experience, but once I was in, I didn’t avert my eyes for even a second. If I were seated in the Harold Pinter Theatre, you would have spotted me at the end - crying, cheering, and giving a standing ovation.

On Blu-ray, DVD & Digital 14th June



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