A Promise (2013)

PATRICE LECONTE

Bil’s rating (out of 5):   0.5

France/Belgium2013.  Fidélité Films, Wild Bunch, Scope Pictures, Orange Cinéma Séries, La Wallonie, Cofinova Développement 6, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral de Belgique, SCOPE Invest.  Screenplay by Patrice Leconte, , based on the novel Journey Into The Past by . Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Toronto International Film Festival 2013.  

A waste of time if ever there was one, from a director capable of far more and a cast of actors who are not usually this lifeless.  Patrice Leconte’s foray into English-language storytelling adapts Stefan Zweig’s novel to ill effect, as young begins working in the factory of ailing as a lowly employee but rises in esteem thanks to his tutoring the boss’s son.  Rickman is knocked out of the job quickly by illness, forced to dictate the running of his establishment from home, which means our young protagonist must be his go-between, eventually moving into the old guy’s mansion and being his right hand.  This does nothing good for the sexual tension that has developed between Madden and Rickman’s young wife (), but when it comes time for them to acknowledge their passion for each other, they do their best to keep things respectable.  An assignment in Mexico comes along to divide them further, then the onset of World War I, prompting the couple to promise that when politics and responsibility no longer bind them elsewhere, they will reunite and finally consummate their love for each other.  What follows is probably meant to be an examination of the fickle nature of human connection, because there is nothing like time and distance to mute even the hottest of human emotions, but with such magnificently flat direction and dialogue there is no reason to stick with it and discover the theme for yourself.  Madden and Hall enjoy not the least bit of chemistry between them, she poised and articulate in the kind of role she is suitable for but playing it cerebral and with no corporeal heat.  The conflict between work and personal relationships is brought up and dropped quickly, leaving a highly familiar and typical forbidden love story that is given no twist, angle or treatment to make it stand apart from anything else.  I loathed this movie, and am happy to tell anyone as much.

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