Angels and demons are it seems the new vampire. This is the second film I've seen in the last few weeks featuring the age-old battle between good and evil, with the borderline plausible action film I, Frankenstein now followed by the star studded Winter's Tale, a nonsensical and at times dull romantic drama.
The poorly explained premise is a worry right from the start. Those who have read the book may understand the softly spoken narration pondering our destinies and how the universe is connected by light; the rest of us are left wondering what on earth is going on?
The film tells the story of orphan Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). Peter has grown up on the streets of New York and when the story kicks off in 1916 is a thief on the run from his old Irish gangland boss Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). When burgling a house before leaving town on his magical white flying horse (yes, seriously), Peter meets and falls in love with a privileged woman dying from consumption, Beverly Penn, played by Downton Abbey's Jessica Brown-Findlay. They escape town for the country under the impression Soames, a demon that excels in turning humans bad, has no jurisdiction there.
Soames, however does know of a way to reach the two and after disaster strikes, we suddenly find ourselves in present day New York. Peter has amnesia, hasn't aged, and is still being hunted by Soames. He meets a journalist (Jennifer Connelly) who helps Peter discover his identity, and his life's purpose, which is to perform a miracle. As far as miracles go, lets just say it's a hard one to swallow.
Jessica Brown-Findlay does a great job alongside her big screen co-stars, but Beverly and Peter's love isn't of the sweeping epic proportions needed to anchor the story. Rather, it feels like a soppy and ponderous old-fashioned romance, at odds with the sinister battle between Peter and his demon colleagues.
As a genre, magical realism requires the audience to stretch their imagination. Winter's Tale is handsomely shot, but its jumble of thoughts and ideas just aren't articulated clearly enough to enable us to take the leap of faith into the supernatural world.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Russell Crowe & William Hurt
Director: Akiva Goldsman
Running Time: 118 mins
Rating: M (Violence and sex scenes)
Verdict: Magical realism gone wrong