Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel, in a knockout performance) is convinced that he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky, and is determined to live out his life in the same way, right down to getting himself assassinated (“hopefully somewhere warm” his note appends). He also has only three years left to find Lenin, but in the meantime, his attempts to kick-start the revolution are meeting with little success. His struggle to unionize his father’s factory manages only to embarrass and anger his father, who retaliates by removing him from private school and packing him off to a public one run by the tyrannical Colm Feore. Delighted to have worth enemy, Leon sets about mobilizing the student body, while trying to romance Alexandra (Emily Hampshire). Not only does she bear the name of Trotsky’s first wife, the age gap between the two (she is almost ten years older) is the same. It must be destiny
This is enormous fun. Baruchel’s Leon could easily be a figure of ridicule, and though he is funny, he is also possessed of such indomitable will and the desire to change the world for the better, not to mention a complete imperviousness to social humiliation, that it is impossible not to get behind him. Writer/director Jacob Tierney makes good use of his Montreal setting, adding the city’s quirks to his characters’, and the cast is engaging mix of new faces and veteran Canadian actors (Feore, Geneviève Bujold, Saul Rubinek). Sharp, witty, and unapologetically optimistic, this is about as feel-good as feel-good gets. And, as an added bonus, the film features the most hilarious riff on the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin I have ever seen.
The picture is so sharp, I might almost have thought I was watching a Blu-ray. The picture is gritty, to the point that every pore and blemish on the actors’ faces is visible, and this look helps ground the fanciful nature of the script. The blacks, contrasts and colours are all strong, there is no grain, and the aspect ratio is the original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Excellent stuff.
In a word: raucous. Some discs require the volume to be raised. This one, not so much – quite the reverse, in fact, but this is no bad thing. The music’s beat primes one for the revolution to come, and the sound effects create a thoroughly immersive experience. The left and right separation might be a bit stronger, but all in all, this is a most satisfying audio track.
Commentary Track: Jacob Tierney is joined here by editor Arthur Tarnowski (who apologizes for not being Jay Baruchel). Their discussion is interesting, as one sees just how much of Tierney’s own interests and self-confessed obsessions made their way into the film. There is also a lot of nuts-and-bolts behind-the-scenes info, too.
The Making of The Trotsky: (12:01) A fairly standard, but nonetheless solid, featurette.
Deleted Scenes: (14:06) A montage of cut material, and there’s some pretty funny stuff here.
Bloopers… And Other Stuff: (7:51) Flubs, outtakes and goofing around.
I’ll admit it. This piece shot through the defenses of the old cynic in me. I had a terrific time. Highly recommended.