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Lover's Prayer Review


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The hero of the unlikely British drama Lover's Prayer, based on Ivan Turgenev's story "First Love," is a frail, pale-faced, Russian boy named Vladimir (Nick Stahl) who stumbles through the movie as if his legs were stilts, barely finishing five complete sentences. The son of middle-class landowners, Vladimir is spending away summer near Moscow, waiting to go to college in the fall. He desperately wants to fall in love but, being very shy and deeply absorbed in his own naïve imaginary world, he's unsure of himself. To explain his longings, the director relieves the actor from acting almost entirely, and, instead, simply asks him carry his dour face throughout the movie and adds a voice over of an older Vladimir, his tone so dispassionate one wonders if the actor took sedatives before taking on the project.

Soon enough, Vladimir becomes acquainted with his parents' neighbors, an alcoholic and broke princess with a hair like a haystack, who, while reaching for a bottle, utters banalities in a loud piercing voice. Immediately, Vladimir falls for the princess's daughter Zinaida (Kirsten Dunst) and spends endless summer days in the company of this pug-nosed, plain looking capricious young woman. Zinaida adds Vladimir to her circle of admirers -- a group of men of every stripe, age, and rank. They all dance around Zinaida, playing charades, eager to fulfill her every wish. As it turns out, she seems to have many such admirers -- and Vladimir learns that she is having an affair with his own father.

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