Akiva Goldsman is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, whose body of work ranges in quality from A Beautiful Mind and I Am Legend to Lost in Space and Batman and Robin. For that reason, it might be for the best to walk on eggshells, when it comes to expectations for Goldsman’s upcoming feature-length writing/directorial debut, Winter’s Tale.
The newly-unveiled Winter’s Tale trailer strikes the sort of wondrous and uplifting tone one might anticipate, based on Goldsman’s previous dramatic output as a writer (for additional examples, see Cinderella Man). Story-wise, the preview does a fine job of outlining the basic setup – featured in the source novel written by Mark Helprin – wherein a middle-aged Irish burglar named Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) encounters a mysterious young woman, as he attempts to rob a mansion on the Upper West Side of New York, circa 1916.
Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) portrays the dying Beverly Penn, whom Farrell’s character falls in love with, even as he remains on the run from his longtime enemy, gang leader Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). Admittedly, from there the trailer starts to become more vague (for those unfamiliar with Helprin’s novel, anyway), by only hinting at the supernatural elements that result in Peter being alive – yet suffering from memory loss – in present-day Manhattan. (That includes Athansor, the mysterious white horse who becomes Peter’s guardian angel across time and space.)
Winter’s Tale seems like a pretty straightforward and un-ironic piece of magical realism storytelling; as opposed to, this week’s equally-sentimental, yet more self-aware addition to the sub-genre, the British time-travel rom-com About Time.
Goldsman is no stranger to blending fantastical scenarios with more emotionally-grounded character drama – he was a longtime consulting producer on Fringe and wrote/directed a handful of episodes – but his previous work makes it harder to guess if Winter’s Tale will turn out more heart-warming (no pun intended) … or just saccharine. If nothing else, the film should look quite handsome, courtesy of picturesque cinematography by Caleb Dechanel (The Passion of the Christ) and solid production design by Naomi Shohan (The Lovely Bones).
Rounding out the star-studded cast for Winter’s Tale is Jennifer Connelly (Noah), Matt Bomer (White Collar), William Hurt (The Host), Kevin Durand (Fruitvale Station), screen legend Eva Marie Saint and the ex-Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith.
Winter’s Tale opens in U.S. theaters on February 14th, 2014.