WINTER'S TALE is a slightly hokey, but thoughtful, tale about love and miracles with gentle performances by Colin Farrell, Jessica Findlay Brown and Jennifer Connelly. Based on a novel by Mark Helprin, the story is about a man named Peter Lake, a thief with mysterious beginnings who falls in love with a woman whose house he sets out to rob. He's also accompanied by a flying white horse, and being pursued by his former employer, Pearly Soames, played with gusto by Russell Crowe. I would describe the plot a little more, but it's hard to go into too much detail without giving everything away. Suffice it to say, there's a lot of talk about light, stars, destiny and miracles. And also, if it wasn't already apparent from the get-go, this movie takes place in a fantastical version of reality in which angels and demons exist in human form, and seek to influence the world around them. I thought that the movie did a good job of establishing the fictional world in which this takes place, even though not everything is explained in great detail. Of course, not everything needs to be explained to death anyway, and I appreciate that this film didn't dwell too much on needless exposition. The film can be divided into two parts: one that takes place in 1916, and the second half in present-day. The setting doesn't change, but a select few characters exist in both time periods, for reasons best left for the viewer to find out on their own. At its heart this is a love story, and a fairly compelling one at that. Enough time is given to the development of the central relationship to make it feel believable, even though it begins quite surreptitiously. In general, I felt like the film was emotionally moving in all the right ways, and had a nice story arc. However, despite the good (yet unorthodox) story, there were a few things which let me down. First of all, Russell Crowe seemed miscast as the main villain. He chews the scenery in an awkward way, and puts on a ridiculous Irish accent. John Hurt also has a small role as Colin Farrell's girlfriend's father, and I felt like he gave a poor performance, or at least one that didn't live up to the good performances around him. And although not bad, per se, there was an unexpected cameo which kind of felt out of place. I went into this film knowing who it was, but it would be better for the viewer to go in without such knowledge. In terms of technical quality, the cinematography was decent, but nothing outstanding and the visual effects were also passable, although a little bit cheesy. I, however, did like the score and incidental music they used. It accentuated the material quite nicely and helped to punctuate emotional moments during the film. I also liked the song "Miracle" which played during the closing credits. Overall, I thought this was a decent directorial debut from Akiva Goldsman, who doesn't have the greatest record as a writer (and also wrote and produced this film). The magical realism was something fresh to me, and an antidote from lots of movies that try too hard to be "realistic." The story was something easy to get behind, even if it did resort to cliche at times. And despite the shortcomings, this is something I can recommend, if only because it tries hard enough to stand out.