Review: Ralph Fiennes speaks Russian in ‘Two Women,’ a stuffy Turgenev adaptation

Ralph Fiennes and Anna Astrakhantseva in the film "Two Women."
(BBC Films)

The Russian import “Two Women” is not a remake of the 1961 Sophia Loren classic but rather a filmed adaptation of the Ivan Turgenev play “A Month In the Country.” Previous English-language productions were made for either British or American television.

This latest go-round, shot in 2013 in Smolensk, Russia, is a handsomely mounted if largely melodramatic affair that gains steam as it gives way to truer emotions and bits of veiled humor.

Set at a country estate in 1850, the film follows a romantic crisscross involving Natalia (Anna Astrakhantseva), the wife of a dull land baron (Aleksandr Baluev) and the conflicted admirer of a lovestruck family friend (Ralph Fiennes, who learned Russian for the role); while Vera (Anna Levanova), Natalia’s adopted teen daughter who’s smitten with the appealing new tutor, Alexey (Nikita Volkov). The rub: Natalia also unexpectedly falls for 21-year-old Alexey, which, not surprisingly, will bode well for no one. Several other lesser characters are also caught up in dovetailing romantic matters.

Director Vera Glagoleva utilizes her lovely bucolic environs to stirring effect. The classical-tinged score by Sergei Banevich also impresses.


But the story’s hermetic concerns, at least in the hands of scripters Svetlana Grudovich and Olga Pogodina, ultimately feel too stuffy and archaic to find enough modern-day relevance.


‘Two Women’

In Russian with English subtitles


Not rated.

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood

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