Adapted from Anton Chekhov’s classic play, The Seagull follows aging aristocratic actress Irina Arkadina as she visits her brother’s country estate. She brings with her a famous novelist named Boris, who is quite the ladies man. Nina, a free-spirited innocent young girl from a neighboring estate, falls in love with Boris. As it just so happens, Boris toys with Nina, simultaneously rejecting and consuming her while Irina’s son, Konstantin, is in love with Nina. Nina, ironically, toys with Konstantin’s emotions much like Boris does hers. The trailer implies the film adaptation takes a quirky approach to the classic material by making light of certain moments and playing up the comic relief.
Coming off of her third Academy Award nomination, Saoirse Ronan plays Nina. Four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening plays Irina, with Corey Stoll playing Boris and Ronan’s On Chesil Beach co-star Billy Howle as Konstantin. Michael Mayer, who won a Tony for directing the 2006 Broadway hit Spring Awakening and who made his feature film debut with A Home at the End of the World with Colin Farrell, directs The Seagull. American playwright Stephen Karam, the writer of Pulitzer finalist Sons of the Prophet and the Tony-winning drama The Humans, adapted the film’s screenplay. The film’s aesthetic, brought to life by Emmy-nominated cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd, pays tribute to the play’s historical significance. “The play was trying to do something surprising and new: to show people behaving in naturalistic ways, to eschew histrionics and telegraphed emotions for something more nuanced,” says Mayer in his director’s statement, per EW. “[It allowed] the actors to truly live inside the characters they were playing, and to introduce the concept of subtext to world drama.”
The director goes on to add:
An important critic at the time of the play’s premiere, Anatoly Koni, wrote to Chekhov saying: “It is life itself onstage, with all its tragic alliances, eloquent thoughtlessness and silent sufferings.” Chekhov didn’t live to see cinema emerge as an important global art form. He would never know how significant his contribution to writing and acting would be. I’d like to think that he would appreciate our film’s intention to capture forever, in Koni’s words, “the sort of everyday life that is accessible to everyone and understood in its cruel internal irony by almost no one.”
The film was shot in an impressive 21 days and also includes Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy and Mare Winningham in the cast, with costumes by Oscar-winning designer Ann Roth (The English Patient). Sony Pictures Classics releases the film in cinemas on May 11. Watch the trailer below.