Metascore
64

Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. I can't think of another movie that more fluently communicates the special agony and ecstasy of the game of chess.
  2. Carefully made, involving and old-fashioned, the superior work it's inspired gives it an impact that lingers even when the endgame is over.
  3. Moves with fluidity and ease through brisk opening conventions to a perfectly poised and balanced endgame.
  4. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    83
    Fine candy for mind and eye.
  5. 80
    A smart, romantic, heartbreaking pleasure.
  6. Where it succeeds best is not in describing how Luzhin got broken but how love fixed him, albeit temporarily.
  7. You'll find heartbreakingly star-crossed lovers, a heartless villain (Wilson) and a dazzling backdrop of aristocratic life before and after the Russian Revolution.
  8. 75
    One of our best actors, Turturro surpasses his past fine work as Alexander Luzhin.
  9. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    75
    Watson's character grows in importance until she eclipses the recessive Luzhin.
  10. The stage is set for a wonderful movie, and yet The Luzhin Defence, based on the Vladimir Nabokov novel The Defense, never courts greatness.
  11. 70
    John Turturro, who, given the most romantic role of his career, fully inhabits the ungainly Luzhin.
  12. 70
    Gorris has beefed up the role of Natalia (Watson), with the end result that the film's emphasis is appropriately divided between the two characters in an emotionally satisfying way.
  13. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    70
    A smoothly made period romancer that's elevated by strong playing from its whole cast, led by John Turturro and Emily Watson as the starstruck lovers.
  14. 63
    The film is elegiac and sad, beautifully mounted, but not as compelling as it should be.
  15. Turturro's Luzhin is a cinematic soulmate of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man and Geoffrey Rush's David Helfgott.
  16. Falls short of being totally absorbing and compelling.
  17. 63
    Handsome and well-acted, yet it can't hold a pawn to Nabokov's harrowing and moving character study.
  18. An attractive, intelligent film that's intractably at odds with itself.
  19. 60
    In the end, it demonstrates all over again the virtual impossibility of doing Nabokov justice on film, because his work is so resolutely and brilliantly made of words.
  20. When the film sticks with the eccentric comedy of a highborn woman attracted to a preoccupied genius, it works splendidly. When it strays into melodrama, it is as ill-equipped as Luzhin.
  21. 50
    The film's dark heart is Valentinov's mephistophelean scheming: He sets about sabotaging his former protégé's game for no apparent reason except sheer malice.
  22. 42
    Capable but not transporting, never unraveling the mystery of its hero's genius or, worse, making us care enough to look deeper.
  23. 40
    A punishing tragedy that could best be described as the anti-"Shine."
  24. It's one of those period dramas about upper-crust Europeans in vacation resorts, which at first we think we've seen a million times before.
  25. Might be for you. Or you might be bored anyway.

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