(I belong to a “movie group” that gets together once a month to watch a film and discuss spiritual insights afterwards. The following review includes discussion points brought up by the entire group.)
Movies that are based on a novel often struggle with the choice of being faithful to the original work or creating a life of its own. Without a good balance, the audience would feel like watching a juggler who keeps dropping things while he tries to rescue the day. Such was my experience from watching Winter’s Tale. The first question came up in our discussion was “Who was the black guy?” Underdeveloped character is a sign that the director failed to make the hard choice of taking him off the script but didn’t know what to do with it. Another observation was that the demonic characters are unnecessary. While it was a pleasant surprise to see Will Smith with his special appearance, the movie would have worked without his character or even Russell Crowe’s.
Another interesting observation was that the film seems to to be intentionally avoiding the theme of ‘God’, and choose to tone down ‘good against evil’ to make it become ‘the devil against the universe.’ With Will Smith playing Lucifer with his demons trying to kill off the ‘miracles’ on earth, one would expect an antithetical force of God or angels on the other side. Instead, people who performed good deeds on earth become stars in the heavens. The apparent New Age flavor is possibly a commercial decision for marketing strategy, which although may not be well appreciated, is understandable.
The shortcomings of the film is not to say that it is a bad film. There are many elements in it that make it enjoyable. Winter’s Tale looks like a love story on the surface. In fact, it is more of a fable that entails a larger theme. The narrator tells us the idea of life is that every person is a miracle to someone else. To fulfill our purpose in life is to become that miracle in order to bless that person. Beverly Penn lived a short life but fulfilled her ‘miracle’ and gave Peter Lake ‘eternal life’. Peter lived a hundred years so he could save young Abby from her illness. All the adventures of life – immigration, becoming an orphan, becoming sick, falling in love, losing your love – was for the purpose of blessing someone! When Christians watch this film, it is hard not to be reminded what Christ said – I’ve come to serve, not to be served. Reflecting on the message begs the question “Have I fulfilled my miracle?” Whom do we serve? Whom does God destine me to bless – to become his or her miracle? And, the answer to that question will be your own Winter’s Tale.