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The Seagull 2018

The Seagull

The Seagull

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About The Seagull 💬

  • Based on the Play by Anton Chekhov.

THE SEAGULL is the story of friends and lovers, all of whom are in love with the wrong person.

A tragicomedy unfolds when friends and family gather at a retreat where everyone is caught up in loving someone who loves someone else...

One summer at a lakeside Russian estate, friends and family gather for a weekend in the countryside. While everyone is caught up in passionately loving someone who loves somebody else, a tragicomedy unfolds about art, fame, human folly, and the eternal desire to live a purposeful life.

Aristocratic actress Irina (Annette Bening) pays summer visits to her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy) and her son Konstantin (Billy Howle). On one occasion, her lover, the successful novelist Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), accompanies her. When Nina (Saoirse Ronan), a free and innocent girl who lives on a neighboring estate, falls in love with Boris, he basks in her adulation, while Irina is shunned by Konstantin, who loves Nina.

The estate is owned by Sorin (Brian Dennehy), a retired government employee, and his sister Irina (Annette Bening), a legendary actress of the Moscow stage. Irina is imperious, narcissistic and selfish, and anxious about holding on to her star status and the affections of her younger lover, Boris Trigorin (Corey Stoll), a successful writer of short stories. Irina constantly belittles her aspiring writer son Konstantin (Billy Howle), perhaps because his existence as a grown man reminds her that age is catching up with her. While he adores his mother despite her cruelty, Konstantin acts out his insecurity and anger by rejecting both her style of theatre and Boris's writing, declaring them old-fashioned and banal. A dreamer, Konstantin declares he will create bold, superior new forms of theatre and literature.

Konstantin, who grew up on the estate, is head over heels in love with Nina (Saoirse Ronan), a beautiful and naive local girl who dreams of being an actress. Nina is flattered when Konstantin gives her the starring role in his newly written play, but soon after encountering Boris, she rejects Konstantin, and pursues the handsome and famous writer instead.

Masha (Elisabeth Moss), the forlorn, black-clad, self-medicating daughter of Sorin's estate manager Shamrayev (Glenn Fleshler) and his wife Polina (Mare Winningham), suffers an unrequited love for Konstantin, who insensitively spurns her. She scorns the insipid schoolteacher Medvedenko (Michael Zegen), who refuses to be discouraged by her rejection and accepts any crumbs of attention she drops him. Polina aches for the charismatic country doctor Dorn (Jon Tenney), who, pays her some attention, but still relishes the connection with Irina with whom he had an affair years ago. The elderly Sorin, long past any hope of romance, lives in a languid state of regret over roads not taken.

Based on Anton Chekhov's classic play, THE SEAGULL is timely in its depiction of the tragic consequences of narcissism, the tangled relationships between parents and children, and the transcendent value and psychic toll of art, particularly on young dreams and romantic love.


When Anton Chekhov's ''The Seagull'' opened in 1896, the naturalistic style of his writing was so contrary to the melodramas of the time that the first night was a legendary debacle. The great director Konstantin Stanislavsky recognized that 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; to allow the actors to truly live inside the characters they were playing, and to introduce the concept of subtext to world drama. His subsequent production of THE SEAGULL changed the art of acting and playwriting forever.

The Producer Tom Hulce, with whom I made my first movie and most of my important theatre work, suggested that we make a film of this - my personal favorite of Chekhov's plays. To translate the work to the screen we turned to the American playwright Stephen Karam whose work is clearly inspired by the Russian master, and with whom I had a deeply rewarding collaboration. We were beyond fortunate that the astonishing Annette Bening had agreed to play the iconic role of Irina, the famous actress at whose family country estate the story takes place. Once Annette signed on, Saoirse Ronan, Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss, and Brian Dennehy, among many other superb actors, followed suit; and with a host of brilliant artists like costume designer Ann Roth, production designer Jane Musky and director of photography Matt Lloyd to help make the film in a breath-taking 21 days, we had our ''Seagull.''

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.''

Michael Mayer


In October of 1895, Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, a doctor and popular Russian writer of short stories and novellas, began work on a play. His previous theatrical work, ''The Wood Demon,'' had been so roughly panned by critics that he had previously declared he would never write anything for the stage again. Seven years later, he wrote a friend, ''Believe it or not, I'm writing a play... I'm flagrantly disregarding the basic tenets of the stage. It's a comedy with three female roles, six male roles, four acts, a landscape (view of a lake), many conversations about literature, little action, and five tons of love.''

Chekhov completed his play, ''The Seagull,'' in less than two months. It was first performed in October 1896 at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, and opening night was an utter fiasco. The audience talked loudly and jeered the play, rattling the actress who played Nina so much that she lost her voice. By the third act the booing was so intense that Chekhov fled the theatre and retreated backstage. The critics savaged the play. Chekhov took a train home the following morning and wrote to a friend, ''I am not destined to be a playwright.''

Two years later, theatre legend Konstantin Stanislavsky directed, and starred as Boris Trigorin, in a new production of THE SEAGULL at the newly-formed Moscow Art Theatre. Wary of the reaction, Chekhov chose not to attend the opening night in December 1898. the tension backstage that night was such that most of the actors were self-tranquilized with Valerian drops. An audience member wrote to Chekhov: ''In the first act something special started, and a mood of excitement in the audience seemed to grow and grow.'' When the play ended, after a long silence, the audience applauded mightily, and this time, the response from the critics was rapturous.

Buoyed by the response to ''The Seagull,'' Chekhov went on to write, before his untimely death by tuberculosis at age 44, the three other plays which form his theatrical legacy: ''Uncle Vanya,'' (1899), ''Three Sisters'' (1900), and ''The Cherry Orchard'' (1903). Today he is universally recognized as one of the greatest and most influential playwrights in history.

''The Seagull was a game-changer,'' says director Michael Mayer. ''You would be hardpressed to find a drama scholar today who doesn't think that it marked the beginning of what we call modern drama. No one had even attempted this kind of psychological naturalism. It was a new way of showing behavior that seems very contemporary to an audience now.

When Chekhov started writing his plays, they didn't look or sound like plays had before. The Seagull didn't work the first time it was performed. It wasn't until Stanislavsky directed it, that audiences were able to appreciate what an incredibly important play it was. It had to be acted in the same way that it was written - with the same understanding of rhythm and reality - the way people actually talk in real life.''

Mayer thinks that if Chekhov were alive today, he might choose to be a screenwriter as well as a playwright. ''The way he writes is so intimate,'' he says. ''Film might be the medium which best suits the way that he wants an audience to experience his characters and scenes. The camera can capture subtle gradations of emotion and experience in ways that are impossible to do in theatre. Cinema can control time differently, and the viewer can experience the actions and reactions of characters in a very particular order.''

The story of ''The Seagull'' follows the tangled relationships of a group of people who assemble at a provincial lakeside estate and farm owned by Sorin (Brian Dennehy), a retired civil servant and his sister, Irina (Annette Bening), a celebrated Moscow stage actress.

The Seagull Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Michael Mayer

Writing Credits

Stephen Karam (Screenplay)

Anton Chekhov (Play)


Annette Bening

Saoirse Ronan

Corey Stoll

Elisabeth Moss

Mare Winningham

Jon Tenney

Glenn Fleshler

Michael Zegen

Billy Howle

Brian Dennehy

Music by

Anton Sanko

Nico Muhly

Cinematography by

Matthew J. Lloyd

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Country: United States

The Seagull Official Trailer

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