The Promise

Review by Sophie Wyatt

Directed by

Terry George

Starring

Charlotte Le Bon Christian Bale Oscar Isaac

Anticipation.

Another thought-provoking drama from Terry George?

Enjoyment.

A fresh perspective on a largely untold story, with a compelling love story to boot.

In Retrospect.

A terrible event very few are taught about, absorbingly retold.

Hotel Rwanda’s Terry George returns with a colourful historical portrait of the Armenian Genocide.

The Promise is writer/director Terry George’s first film set on foreign soil since 2004’s Hotel Rwanda. It focuses on the highs and lows of Armenian apothecary Mikael (Oscar Isaac) at the tail end of the Ottoman Empire.

Along his journey to becoming a doctor he moves to his wealthy uncle’s house in Constantinople, where he meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon). Soon a burgeoning romance develops between Mikael and his cousins’ tutor and dance teacher, also of Armenian heritage. However, there are a few obstacles standing in the way of their love, namely Ana’s American reporter boyfriend Chris (Christian Bale), and the fact that Mikael became betrothed before he moved to Turkey in order to follow his dreams of becoming a doctor.

Mikael and Ana’s affair is backdropped by the break out of World War One. After avoiding being drafted into the Ottoman Army with help from his affluent fellow student and friend Emre (Marwan Kenzari), Mikael is eventually detained and sent to a prison labour camp. Once free, he heads back to his hometown to be reunited with his family and (almost completely forgotten about) fiancé.

Having been presumed dead for so long, Mikael’s return prompts his loved ones to insist on safeguarding him for the rest of his life. This means him relocating to a remote house in the mountains, where we see him starting a new life with his now pregnant wife.

George’s use of colour matches the feelings of both protagonists, as well as the mood of the entire country; the vibrant and eye-catching perspective on Turkey we are shown at the beginning of the film is contrasted by the characters’ descent into a much darker and seemingly inescapable future.

Forbidden love is the predominant theme here, but George is just as interested in exploring this terrible period in European history, which is still denied by the Turkish Government today. Although this is very much a classic way of presenting historical events, it’s questionable as to whether the central love story steals our attention away from the genocide of the Armenian people.

Isaac is particularly compelling here. His initial stiffness is contrasted later on by his character’s heightened emotional state, as Mikael is left to peacefully yet mournfully reflect on the devastating events of his life.

Published 28 Apr 2017

Tags: Christian Bale Oscar Isaac

Anticipation.

Another thought-provoking drama from Terry George?

Enjoyment.

A fresh perspective on a largely untold story, with a compelling love story to boot.

In Retrospect.

A terrible event very few are taught about, absorbingly retold.

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