Don’t expect miracles from A New York Winter’s Tale

A New York Winter’s Tale is both a brave film, and an overstated one. It’s brave for its openness to the fantastic and the fearless inclusion of well-worn romantic clichés. Overstated however, because while the film celebrates its modern day fairy-tale twist with gusto, it never lets it alone to flow effortlessly through the story. Instead, the magical element is thrust into the face of the audience time and time again in repeated motifs. Ironically this makes the film exactly what the narrator says it is not; unbelievable.

The central concept is the eternal battle between the light and the dark, the good and evil inside the individual. Based on the novel by Mark Helprin, A New York Winter’s Tale is the story of a thief on a date with destiny. He is to fall in love, quarrel with an agent of the devil, and defy death for a century. From 1916 to present day, Peter Lake is on a quest to bestow upon a red-haired girl the one miracle he has to give; he can save a life.

A horse with a surprise trick up its hoof is a nice charm. Russell Crowe as a demon servant of Lucifer (another surprise, a casting choice which got a few chuckles from the audience) is phenomenally twisted with a lust for vengeance. The two leads Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay are perfectly portrayed as doomed lovers Peter and Beverly, whose on-screen chemistry is adorable, if a bit heavy-handed script-wise.

Watching is a pleasant experience. The first half of the film has light humour, threat, true love, and a lot of nudges by destiny. The second half though lacks a lot to be desired. Perhaps that’s just a product of travelling through time into the technological modern day (though maybe that’s optimistically over-reading).  Events begin to feel rushed and poorly thought out, with the plot twist actually detracting from the story. Thrown in and resolved so abruptly, the audience is left a little bewildered. Disappointed too, because it makes the first half of the film seem redundant, which was truthfully the more enjoyable.

The story starts off with an intense burst of energy, which has sadly fizzled out by the end. It’s an uneven directorial debut from Akiva Goldsman. It’d be polite to say that the story was more than most could handle on a transition to the big screen – Martin Scorsese deemed it ‘unfilmable’. In reality though, Goldsman went into it with his own heavy-handed screenplay, a script that attempts to knock into you the idea that that THERE IS DESTINY and we will all become stars, a few too many awkward times. No-one, however, can have left that cinema disheartened. If life’s a bit grim at the moment, A New York Winter’s Tale will definitely put the shine back onto things. Just don’t expect miracles.