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The story of the woman who insisted she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last czar of Russia, is complicated. This 1986 telefilm makes it even more so because it's one of those "fact-based" dramas. Its most annoying invention is Anastasia's romance with a prince who never actually existed. Fiction aside, the first two-thirds of the 210-minute movie are dramatic and captivating. The Romanov family is imprisoned and executed, yet Anastasia reappears years later in Berlin in 1923; Amy Irving becomes the iron-willed yet fragile Anna who battles to be recognized by the remaining Romanovs. Gently paced and beautifully shot and staged, the film only starts to lose steam when Anna comes to New York to make her case in the American press. It takes a bunch of Americans, including Susan Lucci as a stateside Romanov relative, to make the tale seem common. Back in London, Olivia de Havilland is a treasure as the dowager empress who won't recognize Anastasia, although there is much evidence in her favor. The film is a great introduction to the mystery, despite its fiction-augmented recounting of history. After watching the movie, get the book it was largely based on, Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson by Peter Kurth, for a gripping read that just might make you believe in this princess. --Valerie J. Nelson
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