Adapted from Mark Helprin’s novel, Winter’s Tale was a surprise from beginning to end. Set in New York City, this is a story of magic, miracles and destiny. Our story opens with Peter Lake (Collin Farrell), an orphan turned middle-aged thief.
His only objective is to avoid the insane Irish gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), his former mentor. Peter is on the run from Pearly and his past.
During one of his many harrowing escapes, he is rescued by a magical white horse. A spirit guardian sent to guide him, “Horse” points Peter to the house of the dying Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). With very little thought, he decides to break in and steal her valuables.
But in a twist of fate, she steals his heart instead. This encounter sets Peter on a path of true love that changes the course of his future. When the two are faced with death, Peter will go to any lengths to save Beverly.
It is understood in this story that each mortal is gifted with one miracle. Pearly’s job – one he takes great pleasure in – is to make sure those miracles do not come to pass. He stops at nothing to keep Peter from bestowing his miracle upon Beverly, who is sick and dying from consumption.
But is Peter meant to save Beverly? Winter’s Tale is as clever as it is original, a smartly written film with brilliant performances. However because of the violence wreaked by Pearly, Winter’s Tale might not be appropriate for young viewers. Parental advisory is definitely recommended.
Still, its powerful messages of hope – that good triumphs over evil – are undeniable. Teens are likely to love this film.
Winter’s Tale contains some scenes of direct violence and sensuality, making it inappropriate for younger audiences. The romance between Peter and Beverly is highlighted in the film, which includes a brief but obvious sex scene.
The theological philosophy of the film is unclear. The narrator opens with musings about the world, saying “magic is everywhere around us.” There are definite new-age or pagan undertones in the film. This is later emphasized in Beverly’s beliefs that people become stars when they die, and that all things are connected by light.
Watch the trailer for the film:
Despite references to conflicting theologies, such as the presence of the Pegasus character (Greek mythology) and references to spirit animals (Native American folklore), the story is abound with biblical references.
In the opening scene, Peter’s parents are forced to leave America. Wanting to give their son a chance at a better life, they place him in a model ship to float ashore. This is a clear reference to Moses in Exodus 2:3: “But when she could hide him [Moses] no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile” (NIV).
Later in the film, Pearly goes to everyone from Lucifer (Will Smith) to the angels for help in catching Peter. When calling on the angel for a favor, he tells him to “ask his boss” whether he thought coming to Earth and becoming human was worth it. This film is making an undeniable reference to Christ.
The film’s screenwriter Akiva Goldsman calls Winter’s Tale a story of magical realism – but it’s so much more than that. The story at its core is about evil doggedly pursuing an (imperfect) agent of good to no end. Evil wins battles, but never wins the war.
As it states in Revelation 17:14, “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them” (ESV). The Lamb in the context of this film is not so much Peter himself, but goodness and the undying role it plays.
It is written in John 10:10 that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (ESV). Peter, a thief trained to “kill and destroy” per Pearly’s instruction, learned to love. It was through this life change that goodness was able to enter into the story.
A direct result of Peter’s love is an abundant life. He asks, “Is this why we love at all? To save?” These words get at the heart of Christ’s mission: He saved us because he loves us.
The side of evil takes notice of these changes. On the topic of mortals, Pearly complains to Lucifer that “nothing seems to break their capacity for hope.” What an uplifting message! Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (ESV).
Many films out there nowadays show a bleak outlook on life. It was refreshing to see one break away from that mold. Some questions to consider for discussion of this movie:
– Which Bible verses give you strength; make you incapable of giving up hope?
– Do you have any personal experiences of evil winning battles, but losing the war?
– Peter had Horse, who served as a type of guardian angel. What role do you see angels playing in the Bible?
Do you want to read more about Winter’s Tale? Visit the Winter’s Tale Official Facebook
Looking for inspirational Christian movies? Please check out Stand Your Ground (A Cry For Justice) – Movie Review
Megan Rizos is a film and story enthusiast who lives in Austin, TX, with her energetic golden doodle Abby. A graduate of Baylor University, Megan was a Fulbright scholar to Spain. She works as a bilingual speech pathologist, and is currently developing a series of educational children’s adventure tales for screen and print after continuing her education in screenwriting and creative writing.