- RatedNC16 /GenreDrama, Fantasy, Mystery
If a romance story that transcends time and the physical world, complete with demons and a flying white horse is your thing, this is the movie for you.
As you can already tell, it requires a fair amount of “suspending your disbelief” at the door.
Love makes you believe in miracles. With a premise like that, it is unabashedly romantic and sentimental. With big themes like loss, hope, good and evil, it has the potential to be a sweeping romance, but it doesn’t quite live up to the build up.
A LOVE STORY THAT TRANSCENDS LINEAR TIME
Set in both 1916 and present-day Manhattan, the film follows the story of Peter Lake (Collin Farrell), an orphan and petty thief trying to evade the wrath of the demonic gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) and his henchmen.
While Soames has been a sort of surrogate father and mentor to him, their relationship has since soured and Peter must get out of town.
Jessica Brown Findlay and Colin Farrell play lovers in 'Winter's Tale'
Like in a fairy tale, a magical white steed enters and rescues him from a confrontation with Soames and leads him to one last house to burgle. There he meets and falls in love with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay, from TV series ‘Downton Abbey’) who in a tragic turn is dying from tuberculosis.
As she dies in his arms, he discovers his gift of reincarnation and sets out across almost a century to try and save her. Lake’s quest for redeeming his love for Beverly is perhaps best encapsulated in his line, “Is it possible to love someone so completely they cannot die?”
It is regularly referred to that Peter and Beverly’s love will bring about a future miracle and it is the Devil’s decree (a casting choice best left unrevealed) that Soames stops it from coming to fruition.
A hundred years later, and Lake still hasn’t aged a day. In modern day Manhattan, the events of 1916 come back to him when he meets a single mother (Jennifer Connelly) with a (surprise!) terminally-ill daughter.
GOOD SOURCE MATERIAL, POOR ADAPTATION
Based on a Mark Helprin’s supernatural novel from 1983, the film is written and directed by Akiva Goldsman whose work includes screenwriting for Ron Howard’s ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (which also starred Crowe and Connelly) and the ‘Da Vinci Code’ series.
There is a lovely storybook-like aesthetic to the film, with it’s wintry white backdrop and subdued colours.
Unfortunately, the film leaves those who have read the book dissatisfied and those who haven’t terribly confused. Between spirit animals and putting together the pieces of this puzzle where everything seems to be connected, it gets quite tiresome.
HITS AND MISSES WITH CASTING
Credit must be give to Russell Crowe, who as Lucifer’s right hand man is pure evil, with a scarred face that terrifyingly splits into a bloody grimace when he loses his temper. Like the character ‘Fagin’ from “Oliver Twist”, he is a loathsome character, who inspires nightmares.
Russell Crowe as the villainous Pearly Soames
The cast features plenty of recognisable faces including William Hurt and Matt Bomer in a small role. Eva Marie Saint, who at 89, is still acting, has starred opposite the greatest of Hollywood’s leading men such as Marlon Brando and Cary Grant. However even she couldn’t salvage it for the leading man of ‘Winter’s Tale’.
Farrell has made some eclectic film choices in recent years including Vampire horror/comedy ‘Fright Night’ (2011) and a remake of science fiction classic ‘Total Recall’ (2012). His turn as a romantic hero however, felt unconvincing and rigid. Thought he certainly looks the part as a tall, dark and handsome romantic ideal, there was little warmth in his portrayal as Lake.
Plugged as a romantic film, it does little to sweep you off your feet or induce happy tears, as one has come to expect from the Valentine’s flick.