Release Date
November 16, 2012
Joe Wright
Tom Stoppard
Based On The Novel By
Leo Tolstoy
Distributed By
Focus Features
$31 million
Drama, Foreign, Romance
Rated R for some sexuality and violence
129 minutes

Anna Karenina

Despite its tragic and flawed characters, “Anna Karenina” is both visually evocative and perfectly stylized, combining the ideas and set design of live theater with the motions and photography of the cinema. At times, director Joe Wright draws attention to this stage play aspect by including the edge of the stage and moving set pieces, yet at other times, we travel outside, into the snowy world of Moscow. Either way, there is always a tango-like movement to the camera, constantly shifting, constantly entertaining.

In one of Keira Knightley’s best performances yet, she still does not command enough wherewithal to sell herself as leading lady material, lacking a certain charm that exudes from fellow actresses like Kelly Macdonald. Knightley lacks a range in facial expressions that is constantly drawing attention to itself, with a scrunched, sour look repeatedly finding its way on her face. Although this does not completely hinder the film from being enjoyable, as Jude Law is able to act past this lack of emotion from his counterpart, it does refrain the film from being a complete masterpiece, the way Tolstoy imagined it.

What Knightley lacks, however, Joe Wright makes up for in bringing to light the secondary love story of Tolstoy’s novel, between Levin (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kitty, played by the young and exquisitely overshadowing Alicia Vikander. Vikander’s radiance in the role contains the most fulfilling character arc, starting as the naive pie in the eye of Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson), until he meets Anna, of course. Kitty then transforms into a loving, human being, drawn to Levin for his steadfast, and truly romantic nature. When they are together, she gives a glimpse of the woman she will become and Vikander embodies that trait in her acting.

Reasonably the perfect excuse for a future classic, this period piece is expertly crafted and deserving of any awards coming its way, despite its shortcomings in Knightley. As this novel is from 1878, this is not a new story, as the expanded love triangle has been done repeatedly before, as has the tragic lovers, but with Joe Wright’s directorial magic, “Anna Karenina” is at least breathed a new life.


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