Film review: A New York Winter’s Tale or Winter’s Tale (2014), directed by Akiva Goldsman
tl;dr: I can’t believe it’s not better.
Based on a 1983 novel by Mark Helprin Winter’s Tale (released in the UK as A New York Winter’s Tale) is a romantic fantasy drama. In 1895 a young couple (Matt Bomer and Lucy Griffiths) are turned away on medical grounds at Ellis Island but set their infant son afloat in a model ship to be found by strangers and raised in New York. Cut to 1916 and the baby is now a fully grown man called Peter Lake (Colin Farrell, genuine Irish accent), a very good thief. He’s tried to leave a gang of very bad people, headed by some kind of demon-or-something known as Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe, fake Irish accent), and Soames is really not happy about it.
When cornered with no way out a white horse appears and helps Peter escape. He plans to leave New York and let things calm down a bit, but his plans are interrupted when, on the horse’s insistence (sort of), he decides to burgle one more house. The house isn’t empty, however, it contains a young woman called Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), because she couldn’t go with the rest of her family because consumption. Intense flirting ensues. Love happens. She could die at any moment and he’s wanted by the Dark Side. What could possibly go wrong?
Also starring William Hurt as Isaac Penn, Mckayla Twiggs and Eva Marie Saint as Willa (young and old), Will Smith as what appears to be the devil, Jennifer Connelly as Virginia Gamely, and Ripley Sobo as Abby.
One of the things that attracted me to this film (another being Colin Farrell) was that the description made it sound a bit like Cloud Atlas – reincarnation, love, that kind of thing. Cloud Atlas was a film I really wanted to love, but it was really disappointing and I guess the book it’s based on is much better. From the first half-hour I was over the moon because hey, this actually really worked (flying horse aside …) and I’m loving it.
Then it turned out not to involve reincarnation at all, and there were plot holes and … well, it didn’t end up being as fantastic as it should have been. I’m guessing it’s a similar situation to Stealing Heaven, where the film was kind of okay, but compared to the book it was like looking at a picture through a keyhole. The film left out SO MUCH, and if it hadn’t it would have been a much better film. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve just ordered it, so let’s see if that theory holds true.
I liked the flirting between Beverly and Peter, and watching the film has definitely inspired me to continue writing on a particular story, so that’s good. What can I say, Colin Farrell looking absolutely smitten is adorable.
Just a shame the film didn’t quite hold together, and in parts was a bit silly and nonsensical. The time jump made no real sense, but as a love story (the bit of it that was a love story) it was absolutely delightful. Just a shame it wasn’t better, but I’m determined to read the book and hope it’s as good as I expected this film to be.
3.5 out of 5 rooftop tents.
(Update 2021: The book was AMAZING! And yes, they’ve left out a good 85-90% of it. The Peter/Beverly romance plot is only a minor part of it. It’s said that the book has always been notoriously impossible to convert into a film, and I can see why that is. The book is quite strange at times. Having read the book, though, I really wish they had made more of an effort, because there is SO MUCH MORE to it than this film gives it credit for. It really made New York come alive as well. I might actually decide to re-read it.)