A Midwinter's Tale (Kenneth Branagh)

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)

I'm sorely tempted to give this film a higher rating on the strength of its gorgeous black-and-white cinematography; of all of the contemporary chromatically-challenged films I've seen, this is the only one that, if not for the anachronistic details of performance and clothing and so forth, might have fooled me into thinking it had been shot thirty years ago on the cheap by Orson Welles. Many shots are truly breathtaking in their use of light and shadow. Unfortunately, the gag-a-minute script is rather hit-and-miss. Enough of the jokes worked to allow me to enjoy the first two-thirds of the picture, but towards the end a new plot complication (which I foresaw back in the first reel and had been dreading for some time) emerged, and the remainder of the film dissolved into a puddle of schmaltz. Sounds like a description of Peter's Friends, doesn't it? Bingo. At least this one is interesting to look at; it's also a welcome showcase for the far-too-intense Michael Maloney (best known as Alan Rickman's competition in Truly Madly Deeply), who's a bit over the top here but still great fun. Note: Whoever caved in and changed the film's title (it was originally called In the Bleak Midwinter) should be drawn and quartered.