A New York Winter’s Tale
Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe star in a fantasy-romance overburdened with mawkish sentimentality
Akiva Goldsman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind, makes his keenly anticipated directorial debut with an adaptation he also penned of Mark Helprin’s popular fantasy novel but for all of its lofty ambitions, A New York Winter’s Tale emerges as a hugely disappointing experience.
A century spanning supernatural love story, the film picks up in 1916 New York as a charismatic thief (Colin Farrell) falls for the dying daughter (Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay) of a publishing tycoon (William Hurt) and becomes convinced that his love can save her.
The fantasy-adventure that ensues initially intrigues by virtue of its more preposterous elements – including a winged white horse and yet another dodgy accent (this time Irish) from Crowe – but quickly runs out of steam amid extremely daft plot directions, especially once it reaches the present day. It’s then that things become endurance testing too.
Goldsman tries to examine notions of destiny and good versus evil but too often allows the film to drift into mawkish sentimentality (a failing not helped by Hans Zimmer’s heavy-handed score) and self-serious preaching, both of which sit awkwardly alongside some of the more fantastical elements.
And while he does manage to coax decent performances from Farrell and Findlay, who both seem to have the measure of the material, the remainder of his cast – which extends to Jennifer Connelly and Eva Marie Saint – seem to be taking things much too seriously.
The overall result is a film that falls short on just about every level, lacking the spectacle to keep you dazzled or the emotional pull to keep you gripped. And while some moments may be unintentionally amusing, any sniggers will eventually turn to jeers.