I read the novel Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, many years ago when I was a much younger man. While I don’t remember a whole lot about its plot or characters, I do remember the wonderful language Helprin used to describe incredible, fantastic scenes from New York at the turn of the 19th century. It was a beautiful novel and I hope to read it again someday. But until I do, there is a great film based on the novel that I highly recommend.
Winter’s Tale, the film, captures much of the magic of the book. At least of what I can remember of it. The story itself is a sort of romantic fantasy, philosophical musing on the battle of dark versus light, with a bit of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters thrown in. A thief, Peter Lake, breaks into a New York mansion in order to rob it and comes face to face with a woman who is his reason for being. Or so he thinks. Lake is also being pursued by an evil crime boss, Pearly, who also happens to be a demon, giving new meaning to the phrase “criminal underworld.” Fortunately, Peter has divine assistance in the form of a white horse that can fly. Peter thinks his purpose is to save his love, Beverly, from his demon enemy. Of course it isn’t really that simple. As the story careens from the 19th to the 20th and, finally, to the 21st century, we see with Peter, and Pearly, that Providence isn’t always what we believe it is.
A wonderful cast includes Colin Farrell as Peter, Russell Crowe as the demon Pearly and Will Smith as Lucifer (yes, really.) Though a bit slow moving at times, the visual beauty of New York in winter and the great writing and acting will more than repay your attention for the nearly 2-hour running time. Rated PG-13, the film is about the story and not about sex or violence, which makes it refreshing. There are a few frightening parts, so keep the very young ones away. They wouldn’t understand the themes explored anyway.
For those who love good books and films based on them, I highly recommend Winter’s Tale, the film.