Cinema Review: A Promise | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, July 10th, 2020  

A Promise

Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Patrice Leconte

Apr 17, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Friedrich Zeitz (Richard Madden) is a young industrialist trying to make his way in pre-World War I Germany. He takes a job at a factory and catches the eye of his infirmed boss, Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman), who is so impressed by Friedrich’s diligence that he hires him as his live-in assistant. Friedrich moves into Karl’s house and quickly falls in love with his wife, Lotte (Rebecca Hall). Sensing the bond between the two, Karl sends Friedrich abroad to oversee business in South America. Soon, war erupts, and though the ailing Karl has passed away, Friedrich and Lotte remained separated by circumstances, their love put to the tests of both time and distance.

Patrice Leconte, who also receives partial writing credit, crafts an aesthetically pleasing period piece. Set primarily in Karl’s impressive estate, the film features few but well-rendered locations, and the costume design help gives a sense of the era, considering little of the story takes place beyond the walls of the manor. That said, perhaps little of the story escapes the house, because there is little story to begin with. Friedrich and Lotte’s love is muted and understated, told through stolen glances and the brush of one hand against another. Rickman does a solid job as the observant and struggling Karl, but never once does Leconte allow his characters – or his actors – the outburst that is most assuredly brewing beneath the surface. Though by no means an unbearable watch, A Promise is almost as much an exercise in patience for its viewers as it is for Friedrich and Lotte. One gets the sense of how the story will resolve, and the hour and a half between the beginning and end credits are visually pleasing and well-acted, yet rather uneventful, minutes until the inevitable.

Author rating: 5/10

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