A Gentleman in Moscow

Ewan McGregor stars as a Count placed under house arrest in an opulent hotel, following the Russian Revolution.

Given recent world events its a bold move, I suppose, to produce a series set in Russia.

But 8 part series, A Gentleman in Moscow, is based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Amor Towles and centres around Count Alexander Rostov, a nobleman who, in the aftermath of 1917 Russian Revolution finds his world turned upside down.

No longer the elite, or ruling class, Alexander (Ewan McGregor) faces a Soviet tribunal for a divisive poem attributed to him. Spared from execution, he is banished to a tiny attic room at
the Hotel Metropol, for the rest of his natural life.

“Life for you and your kind is over in Moscow. You must never leave this hotel. If you do, I’ll be waiting,” warns one Russian overseer.

Thankfully the Metropol is quite the opulent building, resembling something like the Grand Budapest Hotel. It has fancy restaurants, bars, its own barber and then some. But denied the outdoors and a piece of Russian sky is harsh punishment for Alexander, who loves his mother land.

Despite being under constant house arrest, Alexander remains optimistic and welcoming, maintaining loose threads of a charmed life with top dinners, even if the staff begrudge a fallen Count in the new society of the people.

He strikes up an unexpected friendship with nine year old hotel guest Nina (Alexa Goodall) and toys with the idea of escaping with former prince-turned-violinist Niolai (Paul Ready). Another acquaintance becomes actress Anna (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

There are also many flashbacks to a life of privilege, devotion to his sister Helene, and history with the man she loved, Mishka (Fehinti Balogun). The Russian authorities regularly trash his room looking for information to which he simply requests they clean the dust while they upturn his belongings.

It’s hard not to think of the plight of Julian Assange who was given asylum at an Ecudaorian embassy for 7 years, but the author reportedly drew inspiration from permanent residents of Swiss hotels, giving the concept a lens via the Russian Revolution.

Ewan McGregor upholds the role of the Count with plenty of panache, gentle, agreeable, courteous to a tee.

The pacing of the episodes is somewhat uneven, at times turning a necessarily claustrophobic series into a slow-burn. The accents are almost universally clipped British, turning mainly to Russian for folk songs and supporting Boris-types.

But the bonus is the costumes and interiors (filmed in the UK) which the eye can drink in while engaging with Alexander’s plight.

This gentleman is perfectly agreeable, if not especially demanding of the viewer, and is in good hands with its leading man.

A Gentleman in Moscow is screening weekly on Paramount+.

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