Alexander Luzhin (Turturro) is a chess grandmaster. The game has been his only world since childhood, and he's entirely lacking in social skills. His unconventional behaviour raises eyebrows at the Italian lakeside resort where he's taking part in the 1929 world chess tournament, but also draws the attention of Natalia (Watson), a Russian woman holidaying with her overbearing mother Vera (James), who's anxious for her daughter to marry well. As the attraction between Natalia and Luzhin grows, so too does Vera's dismay at the liaison. Luzhin, meanwhile, grapples with the demands and conflicts of his dedication to the game, and his love for Natalia. This does not quite live up to Nabokov's novella. But it's a valiant attempt to capture the spirit of the original, and the overall result is engaging, gently humorous and ultimately quite moving, with Turturro emanating a beguiling purity and exuberance.
The Luzhin Defence
Cast and crew