Winter’s Tale: A Fantasy Romance with Hints of Darkness

Poster for Winter's TaleI recently watched the movie Winter’s Tale and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. The storyline centers on the romance of two star-crossed lovers, but there is a dark side to the story, as well. The movie stars Colin Farrell as Peter Lake, a mechanic/thief, and Jessica Brown Findlay as Beverly Penn, a young woman who is entering the last stages of consumption. Peter meets Beverly while attempting to rob her house, and they quickly fall in love. Unbeknownst to Peter, he has a magical gift – that of saving a life. The demonic Pearly Soames (played by Russell Crowe) acts as both the chief underworld thug of the city and the right-hand man of the Judge (who also appears to be Lucifer – an interesting role for Will Smith). Soames makes it his mission to stop Peter from enacting his miracle, something that seems to be able to have a somewhat profound effect in the scorekeeping going on between the powers of good and evil. Peter’s romance with Beverly does not quite turn out as hoped, and he somehow lives on without aging until he meets another young woman and finds out that his gift may have been meant for something greater all along.

While this movie relied mostly on story and character development, I liked the subtle use of special effects. Lighting plays a big part, and beams of light are often used – sunlight as well as starlight. The demon, Pearly Soames, shows his true face a few times, and he has an interesting tray full of jewels that he can pull light through in order to show him maps and information. Best of all, there is a guardian angel in the form of a flying white horse, whose wings are a beautiful transparent rainbow.

Still from Winter's Tale

There is quite a bit of romance in the movie. If you like things like Colin Farrell riding a white horse to the rescue of a damsel in distress, then you are in luck here because that happens a few times. Overall, the movie has a wholesome, yet tragic, feel to it. There are a couple of parts played exceptionally well by children, and the love of children is another important part of the story. I think that in contrasting these elements with the darker, demonic parts of the story the movie creates an interesting balance.

The cinematography for this movie is beautiful, and the storyline is an original twist on some old ideas. Overall, I would recommend it as worth watching!

The Talisman: A Fantasy/Horror Jewel

The Talisman, first edition cover
from Wikipedia

On September 15th, 1981, a boy named Jack Sawyer stood where the water and land come together, hands in the pockets of his jeans, looking out at the steady Atlantic. He was twelve years old and tall for his age. The sea-breeze swept back his brown hair, probably too long, from a fine clear brow. He stood there, filled with the confused and painful emotions he had lived with for the last three months…

I think I first read The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, about twenty years ago. Ever since then, it has been one of my favorite dark fantasy/horror classics, and since that first time I have read it again at least twice. Recently, I took the time to re-read it yet again, savor it, and really think about why this story in particular has withstood the test of time for me.

The hero, Jack Sawyer, appears to be a fairly average twelve-year-old boy on the surface, but there is nothing average about Jack. His mother, Lily, is an aging B-movie star who is living out her last days at a remote, seaside hotel. She is also ducking “uncle” Morgan Sloat, the ne’er do well business partner of Jack’s deceased father, who is using Lily’s illness to try to screw Jack out of his rightful inheritance. But the story really starts, and Jack’s life changes forever, when he meets Lester Speedy Parker, an elderly black man who is the handyman at the seaside amusement park located down the beach from the hotel.  Speedy calls the boy “ole Travellin Jack” on their first meeting, the same nickname that Jack’s father used to use, and one which aptly describes an ability that Jack has — he can flip between two different worlds, the one familiar to all of us, and another one, the Territories, which is similar to our world, but somehow smaller and bigger, older and younger, all at the same time. The world is a distorted mirror of ours with many individuals in our world having sort of fraternal twins, “twinners”, over there. Jack, though, is only Jack in both worlds, and Speedy gives Jack his mission: to find the Talisman and bring it back so that it can save his mother and her “twinner” — the queen of the Territories.

The heart of this story, then, is about a boy who is asked to do too much while too young. Jack has to figure out how to get across the entire United States without being caught by Sloat or any of his minions (from both worlds). He can travel in both worlds, but there are different risks inherent in both, so he is constantly having to negotiate a series of challenges, everything from worrying about hitchhiking to avoiding half-men half-lizard monstrosities. During his journey he meets Wolf, the somewhat friendly werewolf, and the friendship between Jack and this unlikely creature is one of the things that made the most lasting impression on me. Wolf was not made for our world, and there are problems with bringing him over that seriously hamper Jack’s mission. It is the humanness with which Jack faces all of these challenges that makes him a true hero. It is possibly his innocence that allows him to do the unthinkable, a mission that adults would have likely given up on.

The Talisman picture of title page
My copy of The Talisman has seen better days.

What makes this book stick for me, then, is the story of the struggle and refusal to give up in the face of unbelievable and unrelenting adversity. The bravery to trudge on when the mission seems hopeless, to continue to listen to the small, good voice inside even when not doing so would seem to make things easier. All of the memories of Jack dealing with the horrors and the beauties he encounters along his journey, and his continuing ability to shine in spite of them — these are what make the book worth reading not just once, but over and over again.

The most memorable scene for me: the Wolf waiting with the long black car, chauffeuring Jack through the night with “Run Through the Jungle” blaring from the radio. That one image is always crystal clear in my mind, and I look out the huge back window of the car with Jack and see the moon resting large in the sky. That’s the stuff great stories are made of, “right here and now”.