Happily confessed as an adult fairy tale, A New York Winter’s Tale is a muddled two hours of romance and tragedy. Akiva Goldsman takes the more fantastical components of Christianity, miracles, Lucifer and the like and uses them to bring Colin Farrell’s thief Peter back from the dead after a run in with his demonic boss, played by a grisly Russell Crowe.
Jessica Brown Findlay‘s Hollywood debut is fitting; her plummy demeanour and Winslet type looks make for an admirable protagonist and creates convincing chemistry with Farrell. Suffering from consumption, Findlay’s Beverly is a walking furnace craving excitement, and finds it in a disarmed Peter. A brief and intense romance later and Beverly inevitably passes in the arms of Peter, who defeated, submits to his fate at the hands of Crowe’s Pearly, who has built up a vendetta against his old protégé and will settle for no less than blood.
Presumed dead, Peter washes up on the shores of a now modern day New York with no memory of his past or clue of his purpose. A further act of fate drives him to meet a sickly child and her mother (Jennifer Connelly). Coincidently a journalist, Connelly’s character is able to piece together Peter’s past and the cause of his reincarnation becomes clear.
The premise of Winter’s Tale is a patchy mix of religion, luck and fantasy, with guardian angel horses mixing with fateful encounters and bloody premonitions. When the plot falls thin, the universe is used as its reasoning and the universe here has a lot to answer for. What begins as an acceptable period romance becomes clouded with speeches about stars and inevitability, the significance of existence or the meaning of life through a wistful voice-over provided by Findlay.
For subjects so powerful it’s a generic means of pasting things together; Connelly should be beside herself when she realises that the young man with her is in fact 100 years old but cosmic significance renders her unbelievably silent. This could also be said when Beverly invites the strange intruder holding a gun into her home for tea.
Performances are amiable; Farrell has finely tuned his tortured soul to present a believably anguished criminal, Findlay is becoming and destined to play roles of an earlier time and Crowe’s Pearly, who is mostly seen walking slowly into dark rooms, is perfectly menacing. The problem lies in the underlying theme of the film; a fairy tale leaves room for some chips in reality but this is a whimsical contemplation on a force that is too broad and thus the impact of the film is lessened.