Winter’s Tale was not the kind of movie I expected. I figured that this period piece would revolve around a couple whose love is so strong that the hopelessly ill woman somehow survives, and that would have been just dandy.
But this movie threw me for a loop. It was more than just fantasy, it was the kind of fantasy that gets really technical and explains to you exactly how it works. It’s this mix between magic and religion and fate and also a random touch of what I think is Native American lore. It gives us religion in a very literal sense, with Lucifer literally living underground in New York (because where else would Lucifer live?). And when the religious texts teach us that a guardian appears as a white horse, it literally appears as a white horse. This is a story about what happens when we die, with less mystery and more romance: when we’re done, we become stars. Or sometimes we don’t die, because we can’t. Each of us has a miracle to give, and we can’t die until we’ve given that miracle.
The main character, Peter, falls in love with Beverly, a 21-year-old who’s nearing the end of her battle with consumption. The two have a charming and quirky first encounter, and after that they are simply in the deepest of loves (which I’m not a huge fan of, but that’s an aside). Peter gives us the fabulously romantic line, “Is it possible to love someone so completely, they simply can’t die?” It’s a nice thought; if we care about someone enough, we can stop him or her from leaving us. But that’s not real life, and it’s not Peter’s life either.
Peter has a miracle to give, but as Will Smith a.k.a. Lucifer tells the (in my opinion) horrendously miscast Russell Crowe, who plays the bad guy, that miracle is not saving Beverly. In fact, relative to the whole movie her part is sort of small.
After Beverly dies, Russell Crowe catches up with Peter and throws him off a bridge. Because Peter hasn’t given his miracle yet, he survives, but for no explicable reason he forgets his identity. He hangs out for 80 years or so, basically sitting around wondering who he is and not aging. Finally, in 2014, he meets a little girl named Abby who’s dying of cancer. Long story short, Peter realizes that this girl, Abby, is the one whom his miracle was meant for. He saves her, and then his best friend the white horse (aptly named “Horse”) comes to grab him and they fly off to become stars.
I’m skipping over some parts, but the important thing is the narrator’s message at the end:
Why would so many things conspire to save one little girl’s life?
But what if it wasn’t just Abby? What if she is no more or less special than any of us? What if we are all unique, and the universe loves us all equally? So much so that it bends over backwards across the centuries for each and every one of us. And sometimes we are just lucky enough to see it.
No life is more important than another. And nothing has been without purpose. Nothing. What if we are all part of a great pattern that we may someday understand?
And at that, I loved this movie. Because the one value I believe in more strongly than anything else is that every single person matters. It sounds simple, but when you really think about it, it’s not.
Sometimes movies will show us that “everyone” matters by telling the beautiful story of people who fall in love or rise from nothing to greatness or in some other way deserve our care. I was expecting little Abby to grow up to be the mother of the president or something like that, and that’s why this guy literally could not die until he saved her. But I was wrong.
A person doesn’t need to be the mother of the president to matter. They might be a linguist or a house wife or a drug addict or a custodian or an athlete or a philosopher or a random little girl. It doesn’t matter. The stranger you bumped into on the subway or waved at while jogging or saw in a picture without recognizing? That person is exactly as important as you. Because we all matter. Every one of us. Whether you know somebody’s story or not, they are a human and they came into this world because, for some reason or other, they deserve to be here.
In a way it’s kind of liberating. This movie tells us that you don’t have to fall in love so completely that you believe you can save your lover from death. You don’t have to do something incredible. Because you are alive, you are a miracle. You can give miracles. And even if you don’t know your purpose, don’t sweat it too much because- even if it means knocking you off a bridge, causing amnesia, and keeping you from aging for 80 years- fate will get you to just where you need to be, no matter how many times it has to try.