Winter’s Tale seems to be a typical romantic historical fiction time travel flick. Readers of Mark Helprin’s novel upon which this motion picture is based know that it’s much more than that. Not to be confused with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut, which opens areawide on Friday, accentuates romantic narrative with a classic tale of good versus evil and a touch of mythology. You’ll need to really suspend your disbelief for this ridiculous ride.
Set in 1916 New York, the film centers on Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a thief fending off his former gang led by Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Evading these thugs with the help of a supernatural horse, Peter is forced to flee his home. Tempted by one last score, the handsome thief decides to burgle a mansion, only to find the sick girl Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay) is still home. The young woman and home invader hit it off instantly. The overly cute, wry dialogue cements the foundation of their ensuing romantic entanglement. Soon, the entire Penn family is smitten with the charming criminal, but the story becomes much more complicated and dark. Peter ends up in present day New York with no memory, attempting to discover his true purpose.
Winter’s Tale delivers some great performances from its cast. Findlay jumps from the halls of Downton Abbey, emitting a light sincerity through tragic and humorous moments in the film. She and Farrell have some real chemistry on screen as he plays the lovable, dashing burglar, part action-star and part prince charming. Crowe really shows his range as a sadistically violent villain who has more resources at his disposal than meets the eye. Even Will Smith reveals a little edge in his portrayal of the elusive underground puppet master Judge.
For the most part, this film is visually beautiful (if you don’t mind a little too much flare), with great imagery. Some of the special effects seem a little out of place, as does the graphic violence. If you don’t mind a couple of plot holes and a noticeable difference between the ages of characters and their actors and you want to see a romantic movie that has a lot more to offer than the usual tropes, then you’ll like Winter’s Tale. But you’re better off passing on this one.