Films

A LOVE CHILD FROM STALIN

B.D.J. May 12 1997
Films

A LOVE CHILD FROM STALIN

B.D.J. May 12 1997

A LOVE CHILD FROM STALIN

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION Directed by Peter Duncan

It certainly sounds intriguing— the indomitable Judy Davis plays a die-hard Communist who has a one-night stand with Joseph Stalin (F. Murray Abraham), then raises his secret love child in Australia with an unwitting husband played by Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush {Shine). Despite the wild premise and talented cast, however, Children of the Revolution is strangely tedious. Perhaps the first sign that something is wrong is that Joan, the Stalinist camp follower played by Davis, is not just singleminded and passionate, but quite stupid. And asking Judy Davis to play a dope is like asking Rob Lowe to play a rocket scientist.

But the whimsical story is fun for a while. In 1953, on the eve of his death, Stalin, portrayed as a wise-cracking goof, summons Joan to the Kremlin after being smitten by her adoring fan mail. They have a brief but momentous fling, and she returns home pregnant. Joan promptly marries a dull but devoted suitor (Rush) while a Soviet double agent who spent a drunken night with her in Moscow (Sam Neill) insinuates himself into their lives. As the years pass, the stubbornly Stalinist Joan is horrified to see her son, Joe (Richard Roxburgh), grow up to become a police-loving tyrant—and closer to his father’s spirit than she is willing to admit.

Making his feature debut, Australian writer-director Peter Duncan zigzags between tragedy and farce. The dramatic tone is about as coherent as a roomful of Trotskyist factions. Credibility suffers.

And in the end, Children of the Revolution, which reduces the decline of the Communist ideal to allegorical schtick, seems too clever by half.

B.D.J.