Review: The Trotsky

Review: The Trotsky

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist that advocated Red Army intervention against European fascism. He died in 1940. Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) believes he is the reincarnation of Trotsky and is attempting to relive the major events in his life. The film begins with Leon staging a hunger strike at his father’s […]

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist that advocated Red Army intervention against European fascism. He died in 1940. Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel) believes he is the reincarnation of Trotsky and is attempting to relive the major events in his life.

The film begins with Leon staging a hunger strike at his father’s factory in hopes of unionizing the workers. His sister and biggest supporter (Tommie-Amber Pirie) was cheerleading at the event. Finally at the end of his rope, Leon’s father (Saul Rubinek) refuses to pay the tuition for Leon’s private school, enrolling him in public school instead. Leon soon sees this as an opportunity to organize his greatest stand against fascism by uniting the students in a fight for a legitimate student union. Leon’s main obstacle is the students – are they experiencing apathy or boredom because only the former can be changed. In the meantime, Leon is attempting to court Alexandra (Emily Hampshire), a woman he believes will be his wife because she shares the name and attributes of Trotsky’s wife.

The Trotsky is a smart and witty film and Baruchel is definitely the ideal casting selection for the role of the young, delusional Leon. Having built his reputation in independent Canadian pictures, Baruchel can add another triumphant performance to his résumé. He appears to wholly believe he is destined to live out Trotsky’s biography; his determination never wavers. Amusingly, to help Leon in his task, he’s created a nine-step life plan of significant moments to repeat, including starting a newspaper and his own assassination “hopefully somewhere warm.”

The narrative relies on Baruchel to carry the story forward but the supporting cast is also important. In addition to those mentioned, he teams with three of his new schoolmates to begin a revolution: Ricky Mabe, Jessica Paré and Jesse Camacho. Leon’s fascist targets are Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) and Mrs. Danvers (Domini Blythe).

The students hold a dance with a social justice theme, which brings out Black Panthers, Maoists, guerrillas and a variety of other freedom fighters. The setup to the students arriving at the dance is striking as they march towards the school en masse. Another beautifully framed moment occurs as two of the characters kiss in front of a striking painting of a bedroom, hung on the wall of a bedroom.

A well-written script, good direction and great actors make The Trotsky an entertaining and thoughtful experience.