St Petersburg, 1866: debt-ridden Dostoevsky (Gambon) has struck a deal with his publisher - in exchange for an advance, he must meet the deadline for his next book, or forfeit the rights to all his published work. With a month to go, doom looks inevitable, unless stenographer Anna Snitkina (May) can channel the author's violent mood swings into sustained creativity. Yet, as he unfolds an autobiographical story of obsessive desire and self-destruction around the roulette wheel, this prim naive girl begins to experience unexpected feelings for the much troubled artist. Gambon has the dissolute look down pat, but earns our compassion as a man shaped for good and ill by the contours of his own weakness. In a less obviously showy role, May deftly suggests a woman coming to terms with desires she never knew she had, and her underplaying blends nicely with the larger-than-life contributions from Walker's voluptuous femme fatale and Rainer's marvellously vibrant grandmother. Makk balances dramatic interest across the twin-track narrative and delivers an absorbing venture into the psychology of addiction.