Complete A-Z list

Winter's Tale/A New York Winter's Tale (AF)


Stars: Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, Eva Marie Saint, Graham Greene, Kevin Corrigan, Matt Bomer, Lucy Griffiths, Ripley Sobo, McKayla Twiggs, Alan Doyle, Will Smith

Director: Akiva Goldsman

There are no actor credits on screen until the end of this interminable exercise in sugar-saturated whimsy.

Which is probably a good thing for the luckless players involved since, with any luck, the majority of any audience unfortunate enough to have ventured to see Winter’s Tale’ (the US title)/’A New York Winter’s Tale will have either (a) sensibly left prior to the end or (b) be fast asleep. Either alternative is preferable unless you are desperate to know the people responsible for a turkey large and fatty enough to serve for several Thanksgivings.

It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to direct co-producer and screenwriter Avika Goldsman’s lumbering adaptation of “the acclaimed novel by Mark Helprin”. Unfortunately, Goldsman accepted the assignment himself and proceeded to tug at audiences’ heartstrings so vigorously that it comes as a real surprise that the cinema wasn’t filled with the sound of snapping heartstrings.

In the late 19th century, an immigrant couple are sent back to Europe because of illness (“it’s pulmonary”): they drop their baby son, Moses-style, into New York Harbor in a cute little boat.

He grows up to be Colin Farrell, alternatively clean-shaven or bearded over the more than a century (it seemed longer) the story spans. Appropriately he has an Irish accent (Farrell has more the enough on his plate having to speak the dire dialogue to bother with a different accent as well). He’s a master thief whose would-be nemesis, the corrupt cop played far beyond the hilt by a scarred-faced Russell Crowe, turns out to be something supernatural and a satrap of Lucifer himself who has been given to pursuing Farrell over the many years between 1895 and 2014.

Sitting through it seemed far longer.

Fortunately Farrell has an unlikely ally – a magical white horse given to sprouting wings, Pegasus-style and saving him when the going gets tough.

Clearly Crowe has problems other than fixing Farrell since his reaction to seeing the super-steed is, improbably, “It’s not a horse, it’s a dog”.

Just like the film, in fact.

Risible romance rises when Farrell falls for wealthy William Hurt’s daughter played by TV’s ‘Downton Abbey’ refugee Jessica Brown Findlay, who is 21, “never been kissed on the mouth” and dying of consumption. It’s love at first cliché, Farrell takes her virginity on New Year’s Eve and she dies, having told him “We rise up in the sky, we become stars”.

Sadly, after this mush, stardom in unlikely to beckon…

Years later, luckless Eva Marie Saint turns up to play a woman of more than 100 years old (if I was following the confused chronology properly) to ensure Farrell saves the life of another redhead and then, having dealt with Crowe and his minions, heads into the heavens to join Findlay…

Jennifer Connelly is also involved, positively proving that being an Oscar-winner is no protection against making a major career mistake; and, as comedy relief, I assume, given both his character and lack of any significant attempt at acting, a sensibly unbilled Will Smith turns up as Lucifer.

Strictly for insomniacs.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Warner. Colour.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Feb 2014