The Trotsky Movie Review

If movies like Harry Brown are any indication, generation gap, or rather showdown, cinema may be on the rise. Though Canadian writer/director Jacob Tierney’s coming of age political satire, The Trotsky, unlike say Harry Brown, is more into cross-generational conciliatory enlightenment, however seemingly hopeless, than simply blowing all the young incorrigibles away.

Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) is more than appealing as kooky high schooler Leon Bronstein. When Leon discovers that he shares his name with Leon aka Trotsky, the affluent Montreal teen is convinced that he’s the reincarnation of the prominent player in the Russian Revolution, and must therefore complete the elder rebel’s social mission of mass liberation on planet earth.

But since we’re talking the current crop of cynical and apathetic post-modern youth far more interested in i-Pods than ideology, whatever that is, Leon’s quest is lonely, indeed. Following a futile attempt to organize the workers at his father’s nonunion factory to stage a hunger strike, but they end up eating anyway, Leon mulls spreading subversive activity at his brand new high school.

Sporting a massive Trotsky ‘do and infiltrating the detention room in solidarity with the oppressed detainees there, Leon engages in a rather convoluted conspiracy to incite an uprising for liberation among the many matriculated voiceless, in that entrenched dictatorship known as high school. He also seeks legal representation from a despondent former radical midlife crisis lawyer, who’s certain the world has long since passed him by and wishes Leon would just disappear. And finds time to persistently stalk a perky grownup brainy babe Alexandra (Emily Hampshire) as well, who happens to share the name of Trotsky’s spouse, so she must be his intended whether she’s into him or not. While at night, Leon appears to live out his dreams in Eisenstein movie classics, even tumbling down the Odessa steps inside a baby carriage at one point.

The Trotsky’s what’s-in-a-name nutty political pandemonium is a wacky delight throughout, taking stock of how truth can change over time, and yet oddly stay very much the same in surprising ways. And if nothing else, the film imparts a solid sense, throughout its many subversive comical moments, that beyond the private emotional immediacy of Blackberries and Palm Pilots we are all propelled inside this larger moving and constantly evolving collective force called history, no matter what our age.

Tribeca Film


4 stars

The Trotsky is also available at Video-On-Demand through June.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.