Review: Winter’s Tale (2014)

Directed by: Akiva Goldsman | 118 minutes | drama, fantasy, romance | Actors: Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, Jessica Brown Findlay, William Hurt, Maurice Jones, Graham Greene, Will Smith, Finn Wittrock, Jennifer Connelly, Ripley Sobo, Eve Marie Saint,

“Winter’s Tale”. It sounds like a classic fairytale. The film starts with the following voice-over: “What if, once upon a time…” It couldn’t get any clearer. “Winter’s Tale” is also a story where good is opposed to evil as always. The good is represented by Peter Lake (Colin Farrell with a weird haircut), a literally washed up orphan who makes his living as a petty criminal. Evil is embodied by the demonic Pearly (Russell Crowe), who is at the head of a great rogue organization. Initially, Lake is also employed by him, but soon the young crook unfolds the plan to start his own business. A magical horse helps him escape his vengeful teacher and leads him on the path of the beautiful but sick rich man’s daughter Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay). Lake must do everything he can to stay out of the hands of the tyrannical Pearly and save his new love from a fast approaching death. Only a miracle can seem to bring salvation.

The above may all sound somewhat absurd and artificial to the ears, but within a magically realistic framework that does not have to be an insurmountable objection. Unfortunately, the direction of “Winter’s Tale” is so bad that the magic doesn’t want to come to life. Screenwriter and first-time director Akiva Goldsman (he previously wrote screenplays for “A Beautiful Mind” and “I, Robot”) shows that he still has a lot to learn in the field of the second. There is very little movement in the image. The camera makes a few tracking shots, but that’s all that is said. Movement in the image is also scarce. Actors are often rigid in one position, which makes “Winter’s Tale” very static. In addition, once in a while the 180 degree rule is inexplicably broken and there are numerous other continuity errors. The meaningless editing doesn’t make things any better.

It can be seen from the acting level that Goldsman also does not use good acting direction. It often seems as if the actors do not know what to do. The more experienced players can manage from time to time, but look just toothless when considered. Lighting plays an important role in “Winter’s Tale”, also narratively. But here too the performance leaves much to be desired and the light becomes a nuisance-causing obstacle, full of light flares and other effects that break the illusion of cinema. And that in a film that tries to effectively create an illusion. The special effects also look like they were made twenty years ago. Added to this are the stiff voice-over, the poor sets with clear green screens and the lack of humor. Even the subtitle, “This is not a true story, it’s a love story,” is weak.

“Winter’s Tale” is a deterministic story of fate that falls short in many areas. Ultimately, because of the direction, the film is more of a ridiculous mess than a romantic and magical fairytale.

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