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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Review of the film, Winter's Tale

Winter’s Tale

Set in a mythic New York City, and spanning 118 years, Winter’s Tale is about miracles, sublime love, and the age-old battle between good and evil. To justify the title, there is tons of snow and extreme cold in the story and the locations, including a barefoot walk on ice by its heroine.

Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a state-of-the-art thief, whose own heart is stolen by a 20 year-old rich girl, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), daughter of millionaire Isaac Penn (William Hurt).  It does not matter to him that she is dying of consumption (tuberculosis), while he himself faces certain death any moment, at the hands of his father-figure, the sadistic, demonic Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who does not like the non-violent thievery that Peter has recently resorted to.

The film is based on an 800-page 1983 novel by Mark Helprin. Helprin did post-graduate studies at the University of Oxford, Princeton and Columbia.  He has served in the Israeli infantry and Air Force. His Jewish convictions are apparent in the boat castaway scene, which is so much Moses-like. Many other scenes remind you of Les Misérables (the 2012 screen production), including two bits of casting. Russell Crowe plays the man out to hunt down the hero, very much like Inspector Javert, and McKayla Twiggs (who plays a key character, Little Willa) is playing Little Cosette in the new production of Les Misérables this March. In places, Colin Farrell’s character seems to be modelled after Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables.

Although sincere and oozing charm, as Beverly remarks in the film, Farrell (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Saving Mr. Banks, Total Recall) is unable to rise above the script. Brown Findlay (made her film debut in the coming-of-age drama Albatross) makes an appealing Beverly. Jennifer Connelly has a small role and fills the bill, William Hurt is dignified and Will Smith is wasted in a longish cameo, playing the devil, Lucifer.

It’s nice to see On the Waterfront star Eva Marie Saint (Adult Willa), who charmed us in outings like North by Northwest, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!, Superman Returns and Nothing in Common, playing a character her age with timeless élan.

Screen-writer and producer, Akiva Goldsman, who won an Academy Award, for his screenplay of A Beautiful Mind and also wrote the Da Vinci Code, makes his directorial debut here. Religion, mythology, destiny, miracles, flying horses, …are all present in good measure in the film, perhaps making it too much to handle, for a debutant. Besides obvious derivation from The Ten Commandments and Les Misérables, the film also nurtures elements from Titanic. In the end, it becomes unwieldy, and the only lasting sentiment that remains after you leave the cinema is the unconditional and absolutely pure love that binds the lead pair. Released in many countries, including India, as Valentine’s Day fare, it falls short of cinematic excellence, but lovers might shed a few tears as they hold hands while watching Winter’s Tale.

Rating: **1/2

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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