It’s not often that I choose to discuss a film’s plot much beyond what is easily revealed by trailers, but in this case I feel it is my duty to do so. I myself was deeply confused by what this film is, judging solely on trailers and it’s little wonder considering how deceptively this has been marketed.
Positioned as a love story that spans ages, and perhaps includes some mythical elements, Winter’s Tale puts leading man Colin Farrel front and center. His romance with red-headed Jessica Brown Findlay is the main focus and we get the idea that Russel Crowe is evil and trying to stop them. And there’s also a white horse that appears to have magical properties. All in all, it looks like a passionate period romance with hints of a supernatural message. Something about living through the ages for true love.
This is not a love story. Yes, there is romance, and in fact love is the major catalyst for much of what happens here, but not in the way you might expect. No, this is an urban fantasy imbued with magical realism to the highest extent of the meaning of those phrases. Not only is Pearly Soames (Crowe) evil, he actually is evil, embodied – a demon servant of Lucifer himself (portrayed by an acting choice so surprisingly bold, I won’t spoil it here). That horse in the trailer? A spirit guide and literal guardian angel to orphan-thief Peter Lake (Farrel).
When Peter inexplicably falls for the terminal Beverly (Findlay), Pearly is afraid this human may use his one allotted miracle to save her, tipping the scales from chaos to salvation. And so you have a better idea of what this movie actually is. Don’t worry, I’ve still left plenty of the film unspoiled, but for those unaware of the source novel and who may be swayed by the bonnie Colin Farrel, I just want you to be aware of what type of movie you’re actually in for.
Once I got past the initial “wtf is this movie,” reaction, I found myself enjoying it more than expected. I can at least appreciate the fact that this genre was a treatment beyond the typical young adult fare. That doesn’t mean it was necessarily good though. Based on a novel from the early 80’s, it shows. The story is reminiscent of fantasy films of that era, echoing more Legend and less classic Lord of the Rings or modern Twilight. Elements that are supposed to be serious, or touching, or even frightening are imbued with an unintentional cheese that left the audience laughing in disbelief. In trying to come up with things to compare it to, I keep coming back to 80’s fantasy flicks like The Never Ending Story, but it doesn’t have that nostalgic appeal of those campy films. It takes itself a bit too seriously without backing up that claim. Either a darker or or lighter tone could have perhaps served it well, but as it is, the film’s tone is a bit muddied.
It is certainly different than most other recent films, and as such has a certain appeal. There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing Crowe and Farell duke it out in a weird fantasy setting, and the story does keep it’s path close to the vest for a while – until the final act becomes so obvious that there’s almost no reason to actually watch it other than to see your conclusions realized.
I do appreciate the fact good and evil are more or less clear cut here – many modern stories – especially fantasy – in the guise of creating complexity, slap so much moral ambiguity around that there’s no real point anymore. It’s nice to see evil be evil and good be good without throwing shadows of doubt all around. In the end, I enjoyed this film probably more than it deserved, and you might also depending on your mood. Compared to most of what else is in wide release right now, it’s not all that bad.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“This isn’t really an epic love story like it’s made out to be. I think I liked it more because of that.”
My rating: Three out of five hats
Winter’s Tale meets it’s destiny in 2,965 theaters, February 14