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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Winter's Tale

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jessica Brown Findlay and Colin Farrell star in a scene from the movie "Winter's Tale."
What are some insights moviegoers will gain by viewing the sappy supernatural love story "Winter's Tale" (Warner Bros.)?

That the souls of the deceased become stars, that everybody is destined to achieve a miracle and that, if you're lucky, a snow-white flying horse will appear on the scene just when you need his services most.

That's what happens to the film's protagonist, Peter Lake (Colin Farrell). But then again, Peter's life has been rather unusual from the start: When his immigrant parents were turned away from America's shores for flunking the medical exam at Ellis Island, they did their best to secure their infant son's future by setting him adrift in a miniature boat on the waters of New York Harbor.

Did baby Peter's craft capsize into the polluted waves? Of course not, because the movie's version of early 20th-century Gotham is a fantastical place where such un-poetic events are verboten.

Flash-forward a couple of decades and circumstances have forced grown-up Peter, a would-be mechanic, to turn thief. Worse yet, he's on the run from his former mentor, demonic crime lord Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). But no sooner do Pearly and his gang of thugs have Peter cornered, than his personal Pegasus appears for the first time and whisks him to safety. Equus ex machina, as it were.

It's no wonder that Peter is soon letting the steed guide his burglarizing choices. And a good thing too, as this leads him to the Fifth Avenue home of newspaper magnate Isaac Penn (William Hurt), where his larceny is interrupted by the unexpected presence in the house of Isaac's sequestered invalid of a daughter, comely but consumptive Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay).

Peter only has to take a single gander at Beverly—and overhear her playing Brahms on the pianoforte—to know she's The One. Fortunately for him, brink-of-the-grave Beverley turns out to be rather unflappable. So much so that, in a trice, she's offering the Irish-accented intruder a nice cup of tea. Quite hospitable, given the circumstances.

On the subject of that brogue, which the County Dublin-born Ferrell certainly comes by honestly, precisely how Peter should have acquired it is a bit of a mystery. The opening scenes suggest his mom and dad hailed from Russia, while a cameo by Graham Greene in the approximate persona of Peter's foster father indicates that he was raised by Native Americans.

Perhaps he picked it up listening to John McCormack records?

Be that as it may, pity our poor unlikely couple. Not only is the Grim Reaper out to thwart their bliss; Pearly is too. Most decidedly opposed to all forms of happiness is scar-faced Pearly. And he's got himself no lesser an ally in his down-with-smiles crusade than Satan (played by a very familiar but jaw-droppingly miscast star).

The nature of the picture's source material invites speculation about what went wrong, more generally, on the way to the big screen. All audience members who haven't read Helprin's book may know for sure is that the characters in writer-director Akiva Goldsman's adaptation of it spout sentimental twaddle. They also subscribe to a version of metaphysics that might have been lifted from a Hallmark greeting card.

Feverish romanticism and the exaltation of erotic love pave the way to a scene glamorizing an objectively sinful bedroom encounter. Taken together with the script's surfeit of noncommittal navel-gazing—do we become stars after one lifetime or a thousand?—as well as the additional elements listed below, that interlude of lush carnality marks "Winter's Tale" as unsuitable for youngsters.

The film contains some harsh but bloodless violence, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, brief partial nudity, a couple of uses of profanity and at least one instance each of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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