Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman’s (A Beautiful Mind) directorial debut explores the themes of good and evil, fate and destiny and love and loss - but unfortunately this supernatural fantasy flick needs a miracle to save it.
Warning! All sense of logic and reason must be abandoned before you continue reading.
Based on Mark Helprin’s bestselling 1983 novel the movie centres on Peter Lake (Farrell) an orphaned petty thief who is on the run from his former mentor and gang leader Pearly Soames (Crowe). With Pearly’s hot-temper transforming him into a demon-like creature at the drop of a hat, Peter decides that it’s wise to fly out of town on his magical white horse (yes, you read right).
On the hunt for some loot to fund his travels, Peter is mysteriously drawn to the mansion of publishing tycoon Isacc Penn (Hurt). However, he finds himself stealing more than he bargained for when he falls head-over-heels for Penn’s terminally-ill daughter Beverly (Findlay, Lady Sybil in Downton Abbey).
The plot quickly moves from the early 1900s to the modern day world of 2014. It's here we are introduced to a homeless long-haired, bearded and still youthful Peter (he should be around 108 years old at this stage), who is suffering from amnesia. In yet another ‘could it be fate?’ situation his memory is magically refreshed by single mum and food journalist Virginia Gamely (Connolly).
From here the mind-boggling plot escalates completely out of control leaving several loose ends untied. Do people turn into stars when they die? Is the horse flying on wings made out of light? Is the horse a metaphor for God? What do the constant twinkling stars mean?
Goldsman admitted to “calling in favours” from old pals to keep the budget down – and the cameos feel cheap. Russell Crowe’s ‘top o’ the mornin’ to ya’ Irish accent is unbelievably cringy (think Tom Cruise in Far & Away but worse), while Will Smith’s two scene appearance as Lucifer is incredibly random and unintentionally funny.
While the two leads (Farrell, Findlay) have great chemistry, it's difficult to care about the characters when their relationship is so short-lived.
The nonsensical script will leave viewers bewildered unless they’ve read the book. Instead of events beings explained viewers just have to accept that impossible and ludicrous things are occurring.
The underlying sentiment of the movie is sweet. It reminds us that life is too short and everyone is here for a reason. The movie may want to be a romantic fairytale, but it turns out to be an underwhelming affair.