Story

Winter’s Tale is a romantic drama that takes place across two different time zones: 1916 and present-day Manhattan. It follows the journey of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a skilful thief who falls out of favour with his old boss, Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), for not using the violent methods Pearly has taught him. Pearly is a demonic creature in human form. He works for Lucifer (Will Smith) to prevent miracles from happening on earth, destroying happiness and hope whenever he can.

While Peter is preparing to leave New York to escape Pearly and his henchmen, fate leads him to a beautiful young woman named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). Beverly is dying of tuberculosis, but she and Peter fall madly in love with each other. Although they manage to hide from Pearly for a while, he eventually catches up with them, poisoning and murdering Beverly. Then Pearly captures and apparently kills the distraught Peter.

Peter wakes up decades later in modern-day New York, without any recollection of his identity or how he came to be there. As snippets of memories come back to Peter, he comes to realise that the miracle he was destined to be part of was not to save Beverly. Rather, she was his miracle. She allowed him to survive through the power of her love, giving him the chance to save a young girl dying of cancer in contemporary New York.

Themes

Terminal illness; good versus evil; destiny; miracles and magic

Violence

There is some violence in Winter’s Tale. For example:

  • In the opening scene of the movie, Pearly’s henchmen chase Peter, who has a knife to defend himself. He grabs one of the men by the jacket and slams him into a metal gate. When Pearly arrives, he tells his men to put their guns down because he wants to ‘do it slowly with knives’. Peter manages to escape.
  • After a restaurant waiter tells Pearly that the restaurant doesn’t have a certain item on its menu, Pearly changes into his demonic form (he develops red veins running across his face) and puts his entire hand through the waiter’s face. He then uses the waiter’s blood to draw a picture on the table.
  • When Pearly finds Beverly, he talks about how much he enjoys hurting people and describes how doing harm is the part of his work that he most enjoys. He then holds a knife against Beverly’s stomach, ready to stab her as he talks about wanting to spill her ‘unspoiled virginal blood on the snow’.
  • Pearly callously orders one of his henchmen to kill another for simply making a remark he dislikes – the man is shot point blank in the head.
  • Pearly and his men catch up to Peter on a bridge in Manhattan. Peter tries to fight off the men, punching several of them before being thrown to the ground. Pearly picks up Peter and throws him off the side of the bridge to his apparent death.
  • Pearly and Peter fight again in modern-day New York. They kick and punch one another, and Peter eventually stabs Pearly in the neck with a small piece of metal he has carried with him from his past. After this, Pearly’s body turns to frost.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Winter’s Tale has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • When Pearly displays his true demonic form, he has thick red veins running all over the skin on his face. This happens when he is particularly angry or violent.
  • When Pearly goes to visit Lucifer, he asks the doorman to let him in for his appointment. The doorman appears to have had his mouth literally sewn shut, and his face is horribly disfigured. 

From 5-8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Winter’s Tale has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in the age group. For example, Beverly is only 21 years old, but she is dying from tuberculosis. She eventually dies after Pearly poisons her. When Peter is transported to contemporary New York, he meets a young girl named Abbey who is dying from terminal cancer. He is able to save Abbey, however. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Winter’s Tale shows minimal use of substances. For example:

  • Peter and Isaac Penn, Beverly’s father, discuss having wine with their dinner.
  • Characters drink in a bar. 

Nudity and sexual activity

Winter’s Tale has minimal nudity and sexual activity. In one example, Peter watches Beverly in her tent as she gets changed into her nightgown – her silhouette is shown. She comes outside and notices Peter, turns her back and allows her robe to fall, heading back inside. Peter goes up to the tent to meet her, where they kiss and then make love. Only their unclothed backs are shown. 

Product placement

None of concern 

Coarse language

Winter’s Tale has minimal coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

Based on a novel, Winter’s Tale is a heartwarming story about destiny, magic and love.

The movie focuses on the idea that all humans are part of a larger plan. Each person carries a miracle and has a unique purpose to fulfil. No one life is more important than another. The movie also emphasises the power of love, the devastation of illness, and the ability of one person to conquer evil with determination and courage.

Older teenagers are likely to enjoy Winter’s Tale, but it has violent and scary scenes and themes that are likely to disturb children under 13 years and some slightly older children.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • personal sacrifice and the importance of doing what is best for your family
  • love and relationships – how love can change a person’s values and approach to life, and how love can help to save people.

You might also want to talk with your children about the effects of long-term and terminal illnesses on people and also on their family and friends.