Winter's Tale

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Short takes

Not recommended under 13; parental guidance recommended to 15 (Violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Winter's Tale
  • a review of Winter's Tale completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 17 February 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Winter's Tale
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence and sex scene
Length: 118 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Winter’s Tale is a romantic drama which takes place across two different time zones: 1916 and the present-day in New York. It follows the journey of Peter Lake (Colin Farrell), a skilful thief who fell out of favour with his old boss Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe) for not utilising the violent methods he had taught him. Pearly is a demonic creature inhabiting a human form – he works for Lucifer (Will Smith) to undermine the potential for miracles occurring on earth, destroying happiness and hope whenever he can.

While Peter is preparing to leave New York to escape Pearly and his henchmen, fate leads him to meet a beautiful young redheaded woman named Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay). Beverly is dying of tuberculosis and has limited time to live but she fall madly in love with one another. Although the two are able to hide from the demonic Pearly for some time, he eventually catches up with them, poisoning and murdering Beverly. The distraught Peter is then captured and apparently killed by Pearly himself.

Peter wakes up decades later in modern day New York, without any memory of his identity or how he came to be there. As snippets of memory resurface in Peter’s consciousness, he comes to realise that the miracle he was destined to be part of was not to save Beverly, but that she was his miracle.  She allowed him to survive through the power of her love, giving him the opportunity to save a young girl dying of cancer in contemporary New York. 


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Terminal illness; good versus evil; destiny; miracles and magic

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this film, including:

  • In the opening scene of the film Peter is being chased by a group of Pearly’s henchmen. He grabs one of the men by the jacket and slams him into a metal gate, carrying a knife at the same time in an effort to defend himself. When Pearly arrives, he tells his men to put their guns down because he wants to “do it slowly with knives.” Peter manages to escape.
  • After Pearly is told by a restaurant waiter that they do not have a certain item on the menu, Pearly changes into his demonic form (he develops red veins running across his face) and puts his entire hand through the waiter’s face. He then uses the waiter’s blood to draw a picture on the table.
  • When Pearly finds Beverly, he talks about how much he enjoys hurting people and describes how doing harm is the part of his work that he enjoys. He then holds a knife against Beverly’s stomach, ready to stab her as he talks about wanting to spill her “unspoiled virginal blood on the snow”.
  • Pearly callously orders one of his henchmen to kill another for simply making a remark he dislikes – the man is shot in the head point blank.
  • Pearly and his men catch up to Peter on a bridge in Manhattan – Peter tries to fight off the men, punching several of them before being thrown to the ground. Pearly then picks Peter up and throws him off the side of the bridge to his apparent death.
  • After surviving their initial encounter, Pearly and Peter fight again in modern day New York. They kick and punch one another, and Peter eventually stabs Pearly in the neck with a small piece of metal he has carried with him from his past. After this, Pearly’s body turns to frost.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • When Pearly displays his true demonic form, he has thick red veins running all over the skin on his face. This happens when he is particularly angry or being violent.
  • When Pearly goes to visit Lucifer, he asks the doorman to let him in for his appointment – the man appears to have had his mouth literally sewn shut, and his face appears horribly disfigured.  

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Twenty-one-year-old Beverly is dying from tuberculosis, and eventually dies after she is poisoned by Pearly. When Peter is transported to contemporary New York, he meets a young girl named Abbey who is also dying from terminal cancer. He is able to save Abbey, however.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

There is minimal nudity and sexual activity in this film:

  • Peter watches Beverly in her tent as she gets changed into her nightgown – we see her silhouette. She comes outside and notices Peter, turns her back and allows her robe to fall, heading back inside. Peter goes up to the tent to meet her, where they kiss and proceed to make love. Only their unclothed backs are shown.

Use of substances

There is minimal use of substances in this film:

  • Peter and Isaac Penn, Beverly’s father, discuss having wine with their dinner.
  • Drinking in a bar

Coarse language

There is minimal coarse language in this film:

  • shit; goddam

In a nutshell

Winter’s Tale is a heart-warming story about destiny, magic and love. The film focuses on the notion of humans all being part of a larger plan, wherein each person carries a miracle and a unique purpose to fulfil within their life and no one life is any more important than another.  The movie also emphasises the power of love, the devastation of illness, and the ability of an individual to conquer evil when they muster the determination and courage necessary to do so.

The film is likely to be enjoyed by older teens but there are violent and scary scenes and themes which are likely to disturb under 13s and some slightly older children.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Personal sacrifice and the importance of doing what is best for your family.
  • The significance of love and relationships, the manners in which love may change a person’s values and approach to life, as well as the ways in which love may help save individuals in a range of different ways.

Parents may also wish to discuss the consequences of long-term and terminal illnesses upon the individual as well as their family and friends.