Having a purpose in life is a powerful thing—even if it’s not the first time you’ve had it. In Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky, 17 year old Leon Bronstein believes he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky. Wacky hijinks ensue.
Jay Baruchel as Leon is earnest, strong and honest. He’s also weird, off-putting and not a little inspirational. He is Don Quixote, a knight errant in the wrong place and the wrong time. Baruchel makes it work.
The plot is basic enough; a determined-if-single-minded reincarnation of Leon Trotsky finds himself in search fascists… High School does not disappoint. Leon makes friends he has difficulty relating to, but they make the effort to connect with him.
Utterly convinced that he is Trotsky incarnate, much of Leon’s actions are dictated by Trotsky’s biography. A jarring (but almost awesome) aspect is Leon’s relationship with a woman nine years his senior. The older one gets, the less age matters, but when one is seventeen, it matters a great deal. Leon pursues Alexandra exclusively because of her name and age. The romance… barely works. It’s crazy, they both acknowledge that it’s crazy… but what the hell. You’re only the reincarnated spirit of a Marxist icon once.
Shakespearean Actor Colm Feore is wasted as the two-dimensional doppel-Lenin principal. He grimaces, he glowers, he talks in a raspy voice. Ehn.
I will say this: This is a movie of the 21st century. The families we encounter are all second marriages. A dad in his fifties casually smokes pot with his wife while on the phone with his daughter. It’s all perfectly normal.
The comedy has some truly fantastic moments, but it also lags in places. Pacing suffers between acts, but it mostly holds up. The film is also 100% Canadian, so one or two references fell flat with me, but it was a minor detail.
(The movie reminded me strongly of Children of the Revolution by Peter Duncan, an excellent flick about the [unwitting] bastard son of Stalin. The rise of a young man with big shoes to fill with strong political undertones that remains darkly funny? You bet.)
The Trotsky is good. Baruchel holds his own with dignity, poise and vulnerability that is both endearing and sincere. No force on this earth will convince him he isn’t Leon Trotsky… and that works for him. It works for me, too.
The Trotsky will play as part of the Tribeca Film Festival through May 1st. Visit the film’s website for details and screening times.