The Luzhin Defence (2000)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - France , United Kingdom , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Perry Seibert

Marlene Gorris' The Luzhin Defence is less about chess than it is about the existence of a person obsessively devoted to a single pursuit. John Turturro gives a great performance as chess great Alexander Luzhin. He looks and acts like a cross between Harpo Marx and Geoffrey Rush's portrayal of David Helfgott in Shine. Unable to walk smoothly, his body seems to be at fighting a losing war with his mind. When he meets Emily Watson's Natalia, his love for her alters the way he moves, a change most memorably presented in a scene where the pair dance ecstatically with each other. This relationship offers him an escape from the obsession that has controlled him most of his life. The performances are all strong, but it is Turturro's show. Romantic, haunted, and quirky, this character is the cerebral equivalent of Nicholas Cage's alcoholic writer in Leaving Las Vegas, a man who glimpses happiness and peace as he speeds towards his sad fate.