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Cinema in Focus: ‘Winter’s Tale’

This fantasy tale of the battle between good and evil emphasizes the power of love

3 Stars — Engaging

In Winter's Tale where good and evil battle over the lives of humans, truth and fantasy are interwoven with love and hatred. This ancient/modern tale was created by novelist Mark Helprin and brought to the screen by Akiva Goldsman as both director and writer. Although it presents a hodgepodge of religious and moral images and theologies, the overall message is one of the miraculous power of love over the murderous hatred of revenge.

The central character is a young man named Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) whose parents left him as an infant in New York City when they were denied immigration and deported. Although his early years are not fully explained, we quickly realize that he became an adopted "son" and protégée of a ruthless criminal who is actually a murderous demon named Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Their mentoring relationship ends when Peter finds ways to steal without killing or deforming the victim as the "boss" desires. Feeling betrayed, the bloodthirsty Soames seeks to kill his "son" for revenge.

Fleeing for his life from Soames, Peter is miraculously assisted by two "guardian angels," one of whom appears as a white horse. Although the film uses the concept of the Universe watching over us, the sense is clear that God's angels are sent to help each person fulfill his/her miraculous destiny while the demons are fighting to stop each person's quest as well as to banish the hope that miracles inspire.

Trying to steal enough to begin a new life outside of New York, Peter happens upon the beautiful but terminally ill Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). Led to her by his white horse, Peter soon realizes that they have a connection formed by immediate and eternal love. It is this love that sets the stage for the miraculous power of the universe to defeat evil and save lives.

Although we won't spoil the ending of the tale and the way this love is victorious, it is important to note that evil has its limits and that hope grows even in the face of oppressive evil. Evil takes human form not only in Pearly Soames but also in the "Judge" who is called Lucifer (Will Smith).

Love is present in a variety of people, from Beverly's father Isaac (William Hurt) to Beverly's little sister Willa (Mckayla Twiggs as a child and Eva Marie Saint as an adult) to Abby Gamely (Ripley Sobo) and her mother Virginia (Jennifer Connelly).

That life is a battle waged both inwardly and externally between good and evil has been the premise at the center of most enduring tales. This fantasy set within the cold of winter graphically portrays the nature and intensity of the battle and the supernatural realm in which it is fought. That sacrificial and eternal love has the power to save us from the grip of evil is helpful however it is told.

Discussion:

» When the demon Pearly Soames is willing to risk eternal death in order to kill his "adopted son" Peter, we have a confusing blend of familial love with evil's hatred. Have you ever experienced this confusing blend within your own family? If so, how did you overcome it?

» The implication that each of us has a miracle to do which fulfills our destiny is a fascinating idea. Do you believe you have a destiny and, if so, is it in any way miraculous? Do you sense that you are to do something with your life that you cannot do without the help of God? If so, what is it?

» Do you believe there is love that transcends the bounds of time? Why do you answer as you do?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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