TIFF Review: The Trotsky

The Trotsky
Written and directed by Jacob Tierney
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Colm Feore, Saul Rubinek, Genevieve Bujold, and Emily Hampshire


There’s nothing like a good movie about Marxism and fascism.  Montreal born director Jacob Tierney has made quite an amusing film here.  Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) stars as teenager Leon Bronstein and he truly believes that he is the reincarnation of Bolshevik and Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky.  Why do you ask?  Well, for one Leon Bronstein was the given name to Leon Trotsky and this kid has a big thing for workers rights and unions.  He thinks his life should parallel Trotsky’s life so much that he plans on being exiled, at least twice, and ultimately assassinated.  At the moment though, he’s quite focused on finding his Lenin and an older woman to marry, preferably named Alexandra.

We get a good glimpse of what this kid is all about when, as a 17 year old, he tries to unionize the workers at his father’s plant within the first 24 hours of his employment there.  His punishment?  Having his funds cut off from his fancy private school and being forced to slum it in a public high school for his final year.  Here, he has his revolution ideas fully put to the test as he meets the evil and controlling Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore in an excellent performance) and his brutally strict second in command, Mrs. Davis (Domini Blythe)

One of the main themes in the movie is boredom vs. apathy.  Do the students at this public high school actually care that they are being treated poorly by their teachers?  Does school suck?  If so, should it?  Leon attempts a school wide walkout in protest of their poor treatment and demands that their voices be heard and although the numbers of the walkout are succesful, the attitudes once outside are questionable. 

The movie does have an expected love story and at times it’s a little cheesy, but it’s not as bad and sappy as it could have been because it never lets the main story arc drift too far away before bringing us back into it.  I thought it was cleverly written and well performed and it was quite focused.  There are some hilarious moments with Leon showing that he is in fact a teenager when his mother is around as well as his courtship of  his beloved Alexandra whether she likes it or not.

The best part of the film I would say is that it’s distinctly Canadian as it’s packed with very specific and tongue-in-cheek funny references to certain cultural phenomenons such as the divide between English and French speaking Montreal and the unexplainable success of Ben Mulroney.

I can’t imagine that this will have much of a wide release outside of major metropolitan Canadian cities, but if you get a chance to check it out, hopefully you’ll find it as funny as I did. – Greg

SCORE: 3 stars

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  • Angie

    I was a this screening last night and haven’t laughed this much in a long time. I thought it was brilliantly written and directed. The casting was prefect. I sat right behind Jay Baruchel, and it was awesome watching him watch himself! I think this movie will appeal to both young and old. I definately recommend it.

  • Reed-tard

    What has marxism(communism) anything to do with facism?

  • Reed-tard

    I guess that’s what you expect out of american propaganda. Having signs like ”we want freedom, not socialism”, just shows how incompetent the american media has done to their people.
    I’m a communist. Does that make me a bad person too? Huh?

  • Greg

    Cause Trotsky was a Marxist and the word ‘facist’ was dropped in the movie about 20 times.

  • Greg


  • Geff

    Communism is a political philosophy derived from the sociology of Karl Marx. According to Karl Marx, socialism will evolve out of capitalism and democracy because of class conflict. Socialism will be implemented to stave off a revolution by the working class against the upper class. By Marxist definition, the upper class are those who own the means of production. The working class are those who sell their labor. These two classes have competing interests, but the working class is larger. Eventually, the divide between the rich and poor will become so great that the working class will revolt. Eventually this will lead to Communism when the working class actually overthrows and rules the upper class. (By this definition, please note that we haven’t had a truly communist country…because capitalism and democracy are a pre-requisite. Read “The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx.) This is basically a utopia wherein there is little to no need for government and everyone is treated equally.

    Fascism is characterized by nationalism, militarism, and authoritarianism and is actually anti-communist.

  • Brett

    I think a film like this paints Leon Trotsky in a positive lights. The real Trotsky helped Lenin overthrow the democratic government of Alexander Kerinsky and implemented a brutal dictatorship which lead to civil war. The Bolsheviks destroyed Russia’s economy and war Communism lead to 4 million deaths by famine. The Red Army which Trotsky headed was responsible for the redistribution of food which lead to the famine.

    Marxists also sought to eliminate undesired classes and races in what Frederic Engles called a revolutionary holocaust; 10%-25% of the people were killed after every Communist uprising in preparation of rearranging society and creating the new man. Hitler was a Marxist who also had a utopian vision but just interpreted the works of Marx and Lenin in a different way.

  • Goon

    I havent seen this movie but I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself considering the implications of a small Canadian movie.

  • I finally got a chance to see this film at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montréal. Although the elaboration of the love story shows the clumsiness of the scriptwriter, I thought that the film was so funny. In fact, this is mostly due to the cleverly written dialogues and, above all, the enthusiasm that you can sense in the cast’s performance.

  • @Brett

    From what basis are your unfounded allegations charged from? Firstly, if you look at election results from right before the Russian Revolution you would find that parties promoting revolution had the large majority of the vote- the Bolsheviks included.

    Secondly, socialism was not to blame for the civil war- you can blame capitalism for that, which led a white army composed of British, American, French, Czechoslovakian and Polish troops. This imperialist caused civil war was coupled by a blockade, so I ask- were the famines experienced really at the fault of the Bolsheviks- or can blame be laid on those who really starved Russia?

    Thirdly, I agree with you on one small point- the economy of Russia was very much the fault of the planned economy- as such “destroyed” seems an odd choice of words. Before the Russian Revolution the country was practicing feudalism largely- yet the planned economy still yielded a world super power by the end of the second world war. It was actually capitalism that destroyed Russia’s economy- during the Great Depression the economy of the US fell by a quarter. When capitalism was reintroduced into the USSR, the economy fell by half.

    Marxists do not stand for the elimination of “undesired races” in fact if you look once more at the example of Russia post-1917, many independent states- territories of the old state- were given the choice to not join the USSR if they so desired. In addition women were given the right to vote in 1918- two years prior to the US. Other rights that were gained out of the Russian Revolution include, divorce from either partner, abortion, gay sex, freedom of worship, and self-determination. Unfortunately many of these gains would be lost under the bureaucracy that rose up from the massive poverty that existed after the destruction the White Army havocked.

    Hitler was no Marxist, in fact the rise of fascism in Germany led to bloody crushings of the workers movements in that country, as well as in every country that fascism took hold.

    Marxists hold no utopian vision, only the task of proceeding with the logical conclusions that exist from simply viewing the world in class terms- terms that cannot be wished away or ignored. Neither does a revolution mean violence, the Russian Revolution was largely bloodless- the blood didnt really flow until the foreign capitalist White Army showed up. I think Brett is under the illusion that Communism necessarily means bureaucracy- this is not the case at all, any true Marxist promotes the overthrow of these regimes with true worker’s democracy- democratic socialism.

  • babylove


    annnd they didnt pick such a great school..
    and the scene with the girl sitting under the tree….

    i hope she know’s she’s sitting in DOODOO BARRIES!

  • Couteau

    This movie was absolutely terrible. The plot was bad, characters annoying, and the ideas… what ideas? What exactly does Leon hope to achieve with his revolution? Against what is this bourgeois, priviledged west-islander fighting for, exactly? The right to go to school with muddy shoes? There are plenty of high schools that allow it… Actually, if the characters really wanted to tackle issues of social justice, I’m sure there are a lot of other, meaningful things they could do. And the love story between Alexandra and Leon is weird and creepy.

    Two thumbs way down

  • Ross

    A Canadian teenager with Jewish roots thinks he is a reincarnation of Leo Trotsky and dreams about the social revolution… Well, well… What a crap! It would be better for him to learn more about his idol. Thanks to Trotsky, Lenin, Stalin and other Jewish terrorists millions of people in Russia and Ukraine died during 20th century. If I was him (this boy from movie) I would do something useful for his community and wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. Because nations aren’t so stupid as zionists think.

  • Freedom

    It’s a funny movie and i enjoyed it, but the political undertones are so wrong that it just sort of ruins it. One moment that stood out to me was when Leon hypocritically called Ayn Rand a fascist (which is completely wrong), not to mention that the movie is completely biased. I prefer to think of leon as a satire character, or statist propaganda. The music was good though