A supernatural romance set in both 1916 and the present day, Winter’s Tale
charts the star-crossed romance between charming thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) and terminally ill ingénue Beverly Penn (Downton Abbey
’s Jessica Brown Findlay). Their meet-cute is as contrived as they come: Peter tries 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 Goldsman’s adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel also features a flying horse that’s actually a dog, a stunt-cast Lucifer (if I told you who plays him, you wouldn’t believe me), a star-filled vision of the afterlife, and other confusing supernatural esoterica that’s never as sublime as it wants to be. It’s all quite heartfelt and earnest, but so intent on reinforcing a simplistic, it's-all-connected message that any potential for nuance evaporates by the end of Beverly's opening narration. That almost none of this makes real-world sense isn't a problem. What is a problem is that much of it isn’t consistent with its own internal logic. Goldsman’s half-hearted attempts at explaining his source material’s vague mythos falls flat; once Peter realizes his destiny is to save the life of a cancer-stricken girl for reasons that never prove persuasive, Winter’s Tale
has crossed a threshold from which not even Pegasus can bring it back.