Since Valentine’s Day is this week, it’s no surprise that many of the new movies coming out are stories of romance. Yes, there’s ‘Robocop’, but there’s always an exception to the rule. When you take out your special someone out to a night at the cinema, you have your choice of ‘About Last Night’, ‘Endless Love’, and ‘Winter’s Tale’ to choose from. However, that last film starring Colin Farrell might be a little confused about what it’s supposed to be. If you watch the trailer, it looks like a sure fire love story, but in reality, it’s about hope. But to get to that message, there’s a lot of really confusing stuff to get through first.
‘Winter’s Tale’ is based on a 1983 supernatural drama novel by Mark Helprin. In the film adaptation, we follow Farrell’s handsome criminal Peter Lake as he encounters Beverly Penn, a young girl suffering from tuberculosis that catches the thief’s eye and steals his heart while he attempts to pull one more job before leaving town to avoid an Irish gangster named Pearly Soames. Drawn to Beverly by a deep and genuine love, Peter takes a journey that spans decades to show that very few forces are stronger than the bonds of love. This directorial debut for Academy Award-winning writer Akiva Goldsman takes place in New York City during 1916 and 2014 thanks to the help of guardian angels, demons, and miracles.
Up until that last sentence, you probably thought that this was some Nicholas Sparks period piece, right? Well, it seems that the deeper story is actually the Devil and God waging a war on battlefield Earth using angels, winged horses, and Irish demons. This took me by surprise as much as it did you just now because none of this is really super explicit in the trailers. But seeing as I went into this film blind, I’m willing to forgive that surprise genre change about halfway through the movie. It definitely helped that Will Smith played a very convincing Lucifer.
However, despite suspending disbelief after I realized that there was a supernatural element to these things, I still found a few things to be troubling about the story. For starters, a lot of the main plot elements were left extremely vague. The movie didn’t really explain why Russell Crowe’s Pearly was so keen on killing Peter Lake. Lucifer even addresses this and we still don’t get a good answer about it. Bigger than that, it’s never explained why there’s such a battle going on between the angels and demons. That’s a pretty huge thing to gloss over. I understand that the main focus of the story is meant to be Peter and Beverly’s love, but with a weak backstory that leaves more questions unanswered than not, the film is built on a weak foundation that could fall apart so quickly that the Pegasus looking out for Peter won’t have time to save him.
It also didn’t help that the film’s 118 minute run time gave me a lot of time to dwell on all these unanswered questions. Maybe if the story was condensed a bit more or was laid out differently to play with the framing device a bit more, the glaring inadequacies wouldn’t have been so troublesome.
Without a doubt, some people will forgive those problems and chalk up ‘Winter’s Tale’ as another generic love story, but I really feel like it had the potential to be more. Will Smith’s cameo was amazing, ‘Downton Abbey’ star Jessica Brown-Findlay made the audience fall in love with her as well, and Colin Farrell carried the whole thing when those other two weren’t onscreen. The costumes and sets for the 1916 portion of the story were spot on thanks to a wonderful production designer and cinematographer that really made the period a magical, romantic place to be. But above all, the message of hope in the story was a rather genuine one that could have left the audience very uplifted by the time the credits rolled.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as the message fell to the wayside as the film’s big miracle that you could see coming from a mile away was rather anticlimactic and, as a whole, the story fell victim to not really knowing what it was. Frankly, you get the gist of the good stuff in the trailer. To put it bluntly, it was bad with a few redeeming qualities. If you’re looking to take a date to the movies this weekend, I’d suggest seeing ‘Frozen’ or ‘The Lego Movie’ instead.