The Hollywood Reporter
Michael Rechtshaffen

Russia's official 2000 entry for Oscar consideration in the foreign-language film category is a richly evocative portrayal of the life and intriguing times of Nobel Prize-winning author Ivan A. Bunin that is certain to stir more than a little controversy back home, particularly in light of this year being the 130th anniversary of his birth.

Rather than turning in a conventional, reverential biopic, filmmaker Aleksei Uchitel and screenwriter Dunya Smirnova (daughter of Bunin portrayer Andrey Smirnov) have painted a portrait of the artist as an all-too-mortal man.

Set primarily in southern France from the 1930s-50s, His Wife's Diary is more interested in Bunin's quirky personal life than his work ethic. Setting up house in Grasse with his wife, Vera (Galina Tiunina), and his poetry-student mistress, Galina (Olga Budina), Bunin soon finds a pair of new additions to his oddball nuclear family – Galina's newly acquired lover, Marga (Yelena Morozova), and Gurov (Yevgeny Mironov), a young novelist who harbors a not-so-secret unrequited love for Bunin's dedicated wife.

While a certain amount of poetic license has been taken, the film – with its fine cast and gorgeous, sun-bleached cinematography capturing the memory-stirring power of a fading old photograph – makes for a timeless take on love and loneliness.