The Trotsky

Everyone has a hero. Whether you admit to it or not, there is someone whom you admire and irrevocably idolize. For some (most), this hero is someone within the family, or someone with whom you have contact. Others choose athletes, politicians, or celebrities. Then there are the select few who truly believe they are the reincarnate of their hero, like Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel). In The Trotsky, he has devoted his life to social revolution due to his ardent beliefs that he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.


Following the timeline of Trotsky’s life, Leon has mapped out his progression from idle teenager to activist and eventual assassin victim. After pushing his father (Saul Rubinek) to his limits by starting a hunger strike, Leon is sent to a public school in Montreal where he begins to notice the “overt fascism” implemented by the school administrators when issuing out detentions and decides to unite the students in their own union. To aid in his cause, Leon seeks legal counseling from a former activist/Canadian Communist, Frank McGovern (Michael Murphy). While pleading his weak case, Leon meets Ph.D. student, Alexandra (Emily Hampshire), and begins his quest to marry the namesake of Trotsky’s first wife, start a union and meet the modern-day Lenin.

To say that Leon is a little overambitious would be an understatement. He is seventeen and attempting to start revolutions everywhere he goes. The film does an excellent job converting social revolution into a teenage situation. At first, no one takes notice of Leon’s attempts because he has not gained any true support. The calculating, villainous Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) does not fear Leon due to the fight between boredom and apathy amongst the students. Students are, in general, uninterested in social issues, or anything that requires them to unite and act against the norm. Leon learns the hard way that most kids are actually apathetic, not bored, but rest assured, this does not deter our hero. The same can be said when his future wife refuses his advances.

Alexandra provides a majority of the comedy because of her uncomfortable and unique situation. Realistically, what would you do if someone ten years younger than you approached you expressing their love and devout faith that you two will get married? She handles it like most would, that is, until she begins to listen to Leon and notice his passion.

With regards to the structure and flow of the film, Trotsky is good enough to keep your interest until the end. It has a relatively slow pace, and takes a decent amount of time to truly get moving, but the story is endearing, and Baruchel is strong enough to hold a film (even though he is simply rehashing his neurotic, self-deprecating role from…every other film he is in). His cohorts are given enough screen time to be relevant and fun, and the film stays true to its identity. The soundtrack accents the rebellious tone wonderfully and switches between Socialist Russian propaganda to punk rock when the occasion calls for it.

Leon, at his core, is simply a teenager who idolizes a political figure*. He shows signs of his youth when his activist aspirations are temporarily squashed. Trotsky is light-hearted, fun and entertaining. A little historical knowledge is helpful, but not necessary to really embrace the message. If you are feeling a little rebellious and want to see a teenager acting out in a uniquely sophisticated way, look no further than The Trotsky.

*For a kid listening to speeches in Russian, and idolizing a Russian figure, you’d think he could properly pronounce a simple phrase like Спасибо (Thank you)!!

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