Film Review by Kam Williams
Peter Lake’s (Colin Farrell) parents had hoped to immigrate to the U.S. but were turned away at Ellis Island upon their arrival early in the 20th Century. Denied their shot at the American Dream, the Russian couple decided to leave their baby behind, setting him adrift in a tiny model of a ship called the “City of Justice.”
The infant was carried by the tide to the shores of Bayonne, New Jersey where he was found and raised by compassionate clam-diggers. Upon coming of age, the teen moved to Manhattan and earned an honest wage as a mechanic until succumbing to the pressure to join a gang of ruffians led by the ruthless Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe).
Peter was subsequently schooled in thievery under Pearly’s tutelage, though the two would become mortal enemies once the protégé tired of doing his malevolent mentor’s bidding as a cat burglar. Even after severing his ties to the criminal enterprise, the exasperated orphan was forever looking over his shoulder while on the run from the burly bully.
A critical moment of truth arrives when Peter finds himself surrounded by his former partners in crime and is somehow spirited away by a winged white stallion. Another turning point in the lad’s life transpires the fateful night he enters a well-fortified mansion’s second-floor window with felonious intentions.
For, before he has a chance to ransack the premises, Peter comes face-to-face with Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a sickly young heiress suffering from tuberculosis. And despite her impending demise, he becomes hopelessly smitten with the frail, philosophical free-spirit. Over the objections of her skeptical father (William Hurt), the star-crossed lovers proceed to embark on an otherworldly romance as enduring as it is ethereal.
Thus unfolds Winter’s Tale, a delightful flight of fancy marking the directorial debut of Akiva Goldsman, who won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation of A Beautiful Mind. Akiva also wrote the script for this film which is based on Mark Helprin’s flowery best-seller of the same name.
Does this movie measure up to the source material? Can’t say, since I haven’t read it. Nevertheless, I found this well-crafted piece of magical realism quite imaginative and intriguing, though I suspect fans of the book might be a bit disappointed, given how much is ordinarily lost in translation bringing any 700-page book to the big screen.
A searing, supernatural exploration of the human soul suggesting not only that love is real but that miracles happen, too!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sensuality and violence
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers