Endless Love wasn't the only awful star-crossed romance that screened after WW's press deadline. Winter's Tale is just as bad, also just in time for Valentine's Day.
Critic's Grade: D+
Winterâs Tale isnât one of those exceptions. A supernatural romance set in both 1916 and the present day, it charts the star-crossed romance between charming thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) and terminally ill ingÃ©nue Beverly Penn (Downton Abbeyâs Jessica Brown Findlay). Their meet-cute is as contrived as they come: Peterâs trying to rob her house while fleeing from his former mentor (Russell Crowe, a vindictive demon whose entire time-spanning purpose is to make Peter miserable) but is so thrown off by her sprightly demeanor in the face of tuberculosis that he abandons his plans and accepts her offer of a cup of tea. They instantly fall in love. Because of course.
Akiva Goldsmanâs adaptation of Mark Helprinâs 1983 novel also features a flying horse thatâs actually a dog, a stunt-cast Lucifer (if I told you who plays him, you wouldnât believe me), a star-filled vision of the afterlife, and other confusing supernatural esoterica thatâs never as sublime as it wants to be. Itâs all quite heartfelt and earnest, but so intent on constantly reinforcing a simplistic, it's-all-connected message that any potential for nuance has evaporated by the end of Beverly's opening narration.
The fact that the film is set in two different centuries and that one of the lovers is already at deathâs door in the earlier era should give you a clue of the narrative trajectory. (Stop reading if you donât like spoilers.) Once the inevitable occurs, everything that follows is meant to amplify the meaning of the coupleâs experiences, but the events fail to live up to the emotional resonance that Farrell and especially Findlay occasionally manage to squeeze out of Goldsmanâs overwrought script. You keep waiting for things to link together in a way that's at least viscerally satisfying (if illogical), but they rarely do.
That almost none of this makes real-world sense isn't a problem. What is a problem is that much of it isnât consistent with its own internal logic. Goldsmanâs half-hearted attempts at explaining his source materialâs vague mythos and building a believable world almost completely fall flat; once Peter realizes his destiny is to save the life of a cancer-stricken girl for reasons that never prove persuasive, Winterâs Tale has passed a threshold from which not even Pegasus can bring it back.