Winter's Tale (2014)- Imaginative Period Drama Inspires Dreamers and Tears

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You know those films you really want to see and never do? The kind, while at the video store (yep, I’m still old-fashioned and walk into a video store), you pick up, and then as your arms fill with random DVD’s, you eventually put one or two back. That has been my experience with this costume drama. From the moment I read about it I wanted to see it. From the moment I saw the trailer I knew I’d be enchanted. Then things served as a distraction and I never got around to seeing it. Until now.  

The story centers on Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a rogue with a past. Known for his thieving tricks, Peter isn’t about to give up… or maybe he is. One last score is in order after he’s rescued by a mystical creature – a white horse, from the clutches of his former boss (Russell Crowe). While roaming the streets as an orphan, this was the man who taught him everything he knows. Then he meets Beverley Penn (Jessica Findlay Brown). Beverley is a wealthy heiress dying of “the fever.” When she and Peter meet – as he’s about to rob her home, no less, he is immediately struck by her. Because of her, Peter slowly begins to change, but fate has something else entirely in mind for this star-crossed pair of lovers.  

To be honest, I liked this more than I anticipated (after some reading in the interim space between learning about the film’s existence and seeing it) but the movie wasn’t as good as I expected it to be either. That probably doesn’t make an ounce of sense which is why we’re here – to talk about said movie, so let’s keep going. My mom and I finally sat down to watch this about a month (or longer) ago and we both had to adjust to the reality of what this film was. Instead of being a simple albeit beautiful costume drama, it transitions between being magical realism and involving fantasy elements. Not perhaps in the traditional ways, however there are prevalent elements of fantasy ingrained in the script and really, in order for the story to work (and circle back to completeness), fantasy in some form was a given.  
No life is more important than another. ...and one day, when we have done what we alone are capable of doing, we get to rise up and reunite with those we have loved the most, forever embraced. What if we get to become... stars. - Winter's Tale
I suppose at one time, I did know all of these vitally important tidbits, but time passed and as I am prone to do, I forgot. Once we adjusted to what this film was, I think we both walked away with very different opinions on the story. First, the bad. I honestly didn’t like the small scale picture of this film. There were some things that almost “cheapened” the script. A script that, in my opinion, could have dazzled much brighter than it did because of this. (Things I don’t want to get into, because spoilers!) There are a lot of allegorical themes in the film and it does have a distinct line drawn between good and evil because of this – the representatives between light and darkness imagery isn’t hard to pick up on. This is all fine, and I take no issue with anything the script had in mind. Where I do complain is the character of Lucifer. Something about his scenes and characterization just doesn’t “fit” with the rest of this story. I couldn’t wind up feeling anything beyond annoyance during his scenes.

The romance also didn’t feel 100% “right.” This is probably just me being picky, but that’s the truth. The progression was fine, but how it wound up breaking seemed heartbreaking, maybe, but also awkward. Beyond those quibbles, I did enjoy this film. It’s something I definitely see myself renting again. My mother probably would not. She, like me, wanted to like this and neither one of us walked away feeling as if we’d just found that new fantasy-esque romance that would stick with us. That being said, I also see this movie as being something I would like better a second time through. I now know what to expect and will likely pick up on more symbolism when I’m not so focused on wondering why the heck something “supernatural” is happening when this was meant to be a pretty costume drama piece. Not to be slighted in this write-up, there certainly is plenty of that. There’s some exquisite staging and naturally, I adored seeing Jessica in something outside of her Downton Abbey role. What the cast, producers and company put together is phenomenal. That much cannot be argued.  

If you enjoy fantasy romances, you are very likely going to like this film. In its own way, it’s really a kind of winter fairytale that has layers upon layers of magic on a deeper emotional sphere. Its ending might not be traditional – some might even say, it’s a little bit of heartbreak, but for this script and story, it IS beautiful. Folklore probably isn’t even the proper description, but certainly this is a tale that will probably enchant many of its viewers.

(Content: there is one scene involving a couple sleeping together. She invites him into her room after undressing - she wants to be "loved." There is some kissing as they fall onto the bed. Next we see them lying side by side. There’s some minor violence and profanity. The film is rated PG13.)


  1. I randomly came across this movie when staying in a hotel room with my mom and sister. One by one we got sucked into it even though we jumped in the middle and didn't really get what was going on. My favorite part, hands down, is Will Smith's little cameo. I could generally take or leave him as an actor but I loved seeing him as the ultimate bad guy (haha) and how the scene was shot was super interesting to me!

    1. I'm glad you liked this one, Wesley. It IS an interesting movie and one I feel sure I'm going to like more a second time through. I just didn't realize what it was going in. I can take or leave Will Smith as an actor, too. He's never been a favorite.

      Thanks so much for visiting. :)

  2. I adored this film and would likely watch it again. Then again... I love (and write) romantic fantasy. (♡ Wonderful, thoughtful review, Rissi!

    1. That's awesome, Serena! I was poised to love this movie... but I think I was thrown "too much" when it didn't turn out as I anticipated. That being said, I really think I'll like it more a second time through. It's one of those movies.

      Thank you so very much for stopping by and commenting. I totally get fans of the genre enjoying this, and it really is a beautiful film! There's so many gorgeous shots. :)

  3. First, I have to say, it's lovely to know other people enjoy old fashioned video stores. We still have one left in our town, and it's the only way I'll rent videos. ;)

    Also, I watched this film, and it was enjoyable. I loved the scenery!

    1. Right!? I like walking into a video store and picking up a movie, looking at it, read about it, etc. Old fashioned things like that are always more fun. :) Our video store closed (the one that was about 10-15 minutes away), but we still have a chain story in the bigger city (closer to 30 minutes away), which is where I *have* to go now. Otherwise it's iTunes.

      I'm glad you liked this one, Heather! The scenery IS gorgeous! The entire production is, really. :)


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