Tuesday, 2 December 2014



If you're in the market for some serious weirdness from a major Hollywood studio with Big Stars attached, you could do a lot worse than A New York Winter's Tale, an unseasonal oddity (centred around New Year's Eve, but released to cinemas in February and DVD in November) which seems to be aiming for grown-up romantic fairytale but ends up as a bit of a mess. Yet it's a fascinating mess: too long, mostly silly, hugely implausible, occasionally almost magical, never boring. I've no idea who the target audience might be; it certainly isn't me, and yet I rather enjoyed it.

At the turn of the last century, a young couple are refused immigration into the USA because of a pulmonary condition, and sent home. To protect their baby son from whatever unspoken fate might await him back home, they abandon him to the waters around New York. He grows up to be a petty thief and crook working for Irish gangster Russell Crowe, but after a disagreement over the level of violence necessary, Farrell needs to get out of town fast. In this he is aided by a magnificent white horse, which won't actually carry him until he does one last job at William Hurt's family home. He's away at the time, but Farrell finds and falls in love with Hurt's daughter Jessica Brown Findlay, who is dying of consumption.

I forgot to mention that the horse is apparently omniscient, which is handy when Crowe turns up to take Findlay hostage for Farrell's return. Also, the horse can fly. Also, Crowe isn't just a gangster but an actual demon in human form, and has to seek permission from The Judge, aka Satan himself (Will Smith) to pursue Farrell beyond the city limits. But Farrell's destiny turns out not to be to save his beloved from her terminal condition after all, and tragedy leaves him an amnesiac drifter, apparently wandering the city in a daze for the next ninety years. And in the present day, he finds himself drawn to Grand Central Station, and the shoebox of relics he left there decades ago. A chance meeting with a small child and a journalist (Jennifer Connelly) fill in some blanks in his memory, but more importantly Russell Crowe is still on his trail....

There's a lot of absolute hogwash about everyone having a special destiny and fate and miracles, which makes no sense when you think of all the people in the world casually killed, beaten and generally mistreated - where are their miracles? What kind of miserable pre-ordained fate is that? Farrell's eventual purpose doesn't make much sense either: if The Unseen Fates have really engineered things so that he can ultimately fulfil that particular destiny, they've gone to a great deal of unnecessary trouble to achieve something that could surely have been a lot easier and simpler. Very odd, but a sweet and feelgood concoction, and I liked it far more than I'd expected, given the kind of film it is. Directed by Akiva Goldsman, scribe of various Ron Howard movies and Joel Schumacher's two Batman atrocities.



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