“Winter’s Tale” is a whimsical yet heartbreaking fairy tale about miracles and good against evil. The film stars Colin Farrell (“Saving Mr. Banks”) as Peter Lake, a thief that breaks into a house and meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay, “Downton Abbey”).
They quickly fall in love, despite a fever that threatens to kill Beverly at any moment if she isn’t kept cold. Meanwhile, a demon named Pearly (Russell Crowe, “Les Miserables”) is trying to keep them apart in order to keep the cosmic scale balanced for hell’s side.
Full of magical realism, this film, based on the novel by Mark Helprin, is charming and sweet. The chemistry between the leads on screen is excellent. Crowe relishes his role as the villain, although he sometimes borders on over the top. Farrell is likable in the main role, giving the audience a charming male. Findlay is also good in her role and the moments they’re together are some of the most tender and enchanting of the film. It’s also beautifully shot, dropping you into this world that is similar to ours but with more magic involved.
The problem with the film is that the romance between Peter and Beverly is extremely rushed. It does require suspension of disbelief to buy that they have one conversation and immediately fall in love. While their romance seems hasty, the entire film seems much too long. They rush the parts that should have been developed more and develop the parts that didn’t need as much explaining.
The third act is a complete turnaround from the rest of the film, giving a jarring feel in the story. Jennifer Connelly makes an appearance in a role she is completely underutilized in. The last act is a mess of characters that the audience hardly knows but is expected to care about. It just doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. We spend too little time with the mother and daughter introduced late into the story.
There are also parts of this film that are fairly cheesy. Others are heart-wrenching, while some are difficult to watch. It does manage to tug at the heartstrings in a few key moments. While the film is set in 1895, the characters say lines that do not sound like dialogue from the turn of the century. Some of the special effects leave a bit to be desired, looking almost like a made-for-TV movie rather than a feature film. This makes more sense considering the director Akiva Goldsman, who also wrote the screenplay, has only directed for television with a few episodes of “Fringe.”
This film does require a lot of its audience. It relies on the chemistry between the leads to carry much of the film. While they do a good job at selling what is ultimately a hurried romance, it’s not enough to save it, especially not from the disappointing and disjointed third act. It does have its tender moments and excellent performances from its main actors.
It felt that there was too much emphasis on the wrong parts of the film. The actual romance of the characters takes up less than a third of the film, which is unquestionably the strongest and most interesting part of the movie. It stumbles into the third act and never really recovers.