The stars are not what we think they are; there’s a ‘world behind the world’; and magic is real. Right from its opening voiceover, this treacly, snow-flecked romance adapted from Mark Helprin’s New York-set, time-hopping novel makes pushy demands on your patience. The easier-to-buy bits in the directorial debut of Hollywood writer Akiva Goldsman (‘The Da Vinci Code’) include floppy-haired Colin Farrell as a 1916 thief and scamp; Russell Crowe as a humourless crime boss; and Jessica Brown Findlay (‘Downton Abbey’) playing a New Yorker suffering from consumption. Which sounds like the stuff of fairly standard melodrama, even if Farrell does a lot of his acting with a white horse called Horse.
But there’s a heavy touch applied to the era-skipping leaps in the story. Just as you’re wrapping your head around the 2014 version of Farrell, a reincarnated street artist connecting with single mum Jennifer Connelly, there’s a whole raft of sentimental complications that spoil the sobriety. Could he be her ‘miracle’? That’s the kind of new-agey dialogue to expect – and an A-lister’s cameo as Lucifer is too ridiculous to ruin.