Winter's Tale

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Winter's Tale Movie Poster Image
Disappointing book-based fantasy-drama has heavy themes.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 129 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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

Positive Role Models & Representations

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.

What 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 11-year-old Written byJBnPTsMom March 18, 2015

The bottom line: this movie is about good vrs evil, magic, and the neat little coincidences that are woven through life.

I imagine it may be best to read the book first. Something I have not done. The movie is filled with what is, to me, neat little literary type quotes, like wh... Continue reading
Adult Written byslasher23 August 16, 2014
some violence a sexual content
Teen, 15 years old Written byRyan sitkowski March 23, 2017
Teen, 14 years old Written byJimmy Brew July 21, 2015

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. 

Talk to your kids 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

Themes & Topics

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