Review – Winter’s Tale
Winter’s Tale opens in 1916 as Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is breaking into a house with the intent to steal as much as he can carry. That’s when he stumbles across Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a lonely, dying young woman who, rather than treating him like an intruder, decides to invite him to tea. Rather inevitably the two fall in love, but death and demons conspire against them – including Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Adapted from a novel of the same name by Mark Helprin, and written and directed by Akiva Goldsmith, this is an occasionally lovely film that ultimately didn’t quite gel.
But this isn’t a bad film. In fact, there is a lot to like about it. The cast is terrific, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the story had a lot of potential, but unfortunately there was a lot of religious cruft which just confused things. (Or perhaps that’s just the atheist in me speaking!) And the more you get into the film’s mythology – with its angels, demons, miracles, and even the Devil himself played by (surprise!) Will Smith – the less things make sense. The scenes between Peter and Beverly were truly lovely, but I think the film tried too hard to mean something, to be more metaphysical. Apparently this is from the source material, but it didn’t translate well into film, and I couldn’t quite get swept along for the ride.
There were also a number of scenes that didn’t work with the overall tone of the film. Two moments of extremely brutal violence in particular were totally shocking (and not in a good way) given the gentle tone of the rest of the movie. However, I loved how light and hope impressed themselves on every part of the film, whether it was through the cinematography, the dialogue or the underlying themes.
If they had stuck closer to the source material this story would have probably been interesting but less accessible for many people. And if it had instead shed its constrictive philosophical meditations this film would have been absolutely delightful, but far less transcendental. In the end, it was hampered by trying to be both, and it only ended up hinting at the possibility of a better film.