Film Review: Winter’s Tale (2014)


This kind of film is generally not my cup of tea; I watched Winter’s Tale because I was at home sick one weekend. I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I hoped to be entertained for a couple of hours.


Directed and co-written by Akiva Goldsman, this being his first role as director of a film, having previously directed a few television episodes. Goldsman is traditionally a producer and writer, having worked on a mixture of very good (e.g, A Beautiful Mind) and very bad (e.g. Mr. and Mrs. Smith) films. The film stars Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay; the cast also includes Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Will Smith who have all worked with Goldsman before.

My Thoughts: 

Gosh, this is a silly movie. I paused the film early on only to find that despite almost nothing having happened, a whole half an hour had passed and even worse – there was an hour and a half left to go.

The performances are generally okay with the chemistry between Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay being one of the only interesting and convincing elements in the film. Short appearances from Will Smith and Jennifer Connolly are not good at all- Connolly being uncharacteristically flat and Smith just plain laughable (in his defence his character and dialogue are absolutely shocking).

Some of the special effects are decent whilst others are astoundingly bad- notably the magical white horse’s glowing spirit wings (seriously) were very poorly executed, as were the fake lens fares which apparently link everything in the universe together.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews – I absolutely love the idea of a film creating a kind of absurdist realism – similar to our reality but with peculiar differences. Winter’s Tale attempts this, but fails very miserably by creating a convoluted world without any substance or interest. There is a lot going on (I think??), some of which is explained through opaque and insufficient exposition. It’s outrageously bold in what it attempts, but there’s so little to back it up, making it shallow and almost funny (but not quite laugh-out-loud, so unfortunately it doesn’t really work on that level either).

Within scenes, edits and shots are placed and timed very poorly, for example in an early scene Farrell urgently needs to escape the advancing gang of armed thugs who appear to be barely metres away, but he meanwhile appears to be extremely slowly trying to tame a placid, stationary horse. One could speculate that the overall edit might have removed content that would have helped the plot to make sense. It does feel like perhaps cuts were made in order to fit it into a running time just short of two hours…but then again perhaps that content never existed.

(mild spoilers ahead)

Lastly and most annoyingly, in a bizarre plot twist the gangster played by Russell Crowe goes to visit the devil whom he refers to as Lucifer, and is revealed to himself be a demon. The devil (Will Smith) makes reference to eternal salvation, miracles and evokes apocalyptic Biblical imagery. The only mention of Jesus however is when Farrell says the name in vain in one of the final scenes. The voice over (from Brown Findlay’s character) ends the film with a bland statement about how ‘the universe loves us all equally’ and how we all become stars when we die.

It would be insulting were it not so witless, completely lacking in charm and totally unintelligent.

Agree, disagree, have something to add or another film to suggest? I’d love to hear from you, so post a comment below.

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