Winter's Tale Movie Poster Image

Winter's Tale



Disappointing book-based fantasy-drama has heavy themes.
  • Review Date: February 14, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 129 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Good triumphs over evil, especially when you have love on your side.

Positive role models

Though she may be frail, Beverly Penn is courageous and emotionally generous and does not dwell on her illness. Peter Lake may be rough around the edges, but he too lives with the best intentions.


Brutal, bloody, one-on-one brawls, where men use fists, draw knives, and shoot at each other with guns. A man stabs another for not having the right answer, using his blood to draw a picture on the table. Two men are shot point blank.


A couple is shown kissing and rolling around in bed, their naked backs visible. A man looks longingly at a naked woman from afar. We see her silhouette.


Some swearing, including "Goddamn," "son-of-a-bitch," and "s--t."


Signage for Dunkin' Donuts is visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink at a saloon. A man offers his guest a glass of claret.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Winter's Tale, based on Mark Helprin's 1983 novel of the same name, deals with heavy themes of love and death, and good vs. evil, and so is best for teens and older who can handle these issues. Expect a few scenes of brutal violence (stabbings and up-close shootings) and some heavy kissing and implied nudity (a woman's naked back and silhouette is seen from afar). Swearing ("goddamn" and "s--t") is used sparingly.

What's the story?

This romantic drama, based on a book by Mark Helprin, skips in time from the late 1800s to present day New York City, following Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a thief with a conscience who has angered his crime boss, the very violent Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Pearly, who once mentored Peter, is tired of the young man's reticence to commit violence while on the job. Little does Peter know, Pearly has other, supernatural reasons for wanting him dead. But love gets in the way when Peter meets Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), a young woman suffering from consumption who's only got a few months to live. Larger forces are in play as Peter and Pearly approach a standoff, throwing them both into modern day New York City.

Is it any good?


How to spell utter disappointment: W-I-N-T-E-R-S T-A-L-E. The disappointment is so great because the film is gifted with so many wonderful actors, best of all the enchanting Brown Findlay, who proved to be a fascinating character in the British mini-series in Downton Abbey. Though she does everything in her power to bring to life her rendition of the dying Beverly here -- a great counterpoint to Crowe, who's relying on the usual tropes (scarred face, growly voice, pickled accent) to portray the ultimate villain -- it cannot save the film.

The movie is gorgeous to watch, but a mess: timelines, heavy-handed voiceover, airy dialogue that doesn't give the audience much to hold onto. (Also, corny: the bad guys are dressed in black; the good in, yes, white.) Older teens and parents may enjoy the unabashedly romantic tale, but when it's drowned in metaphysical confusion -- Peter was born in the 1800s but shows up in modern-day New York City, looking exactly the same as he was, though he's no time traveler (and this is just one of many examples) -- they're bound to give up trying to understand midway. Authentic, believable acting (except for Crowe's, which borders on the hammy), can't save this tale from icing the audience out. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the message of the movie. Is it a message from a specific time period, or does it transcend generations?

  • Peter is a thief, but is he a good man? How does the film answer this question?

  • What feels realistic in this movie and what feels more romanticized and melodramatic?

  • For those who have read the book upon which the movie is based, how does it compare?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 14, 2014
DVD release date:June 24, 2014
Cast:Colin Farrell, Jennifer Connelly, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe
Director:Akiva Goldsman
Studio:Warner Bros.
Topics:Book characters
Run time:129 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:violence and some sensuality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byMoviegirl100 February 26, 2014


I went to watch this film with 5 friends and it was awful. Most of the film was predictable although one part did surprise me. Until the last 45 minutes, I didn't fully understand what the film was actually about. Don't bother wasting your time watching it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 14 years old Written bydoubleE February 17, 2014

We got up and left because it was so bad and stupid...

Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 June 28, 2014

Confusing action thriller is not romantic like advertised

My mom and I decided to get the show on demand and found it was not romantic at all! It was about killing humans and satan and his demons hunting mortals. I found it strange and off beat. Content: Sex- a man and a woman have sex(they are shown rolling around in a bed, but no nudity is shown). A woman walks around with no clothes on, but viewers just see her upper and lower back. One night to seduce a man, Beverly strips naked and walks around, she exposes herself, but it is quick and far away. Kissing is shown as well Violence: punching, kicking, stabbing, neck slitting, neck breaking, a man gets pushed off a bridge. Profanity: some usage of son of a b***h, bastard, and damn/hell. (Not overt for a pg-13 film)
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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