The poster and ad campaign lead potential viewers to think that The Promise is about a passionate love triangle shaken by war. Viewers may think of films which memorably and successfully marry love and war, think, Sophie’s Choice or The English Patient. While it’s apparent that an epic love story is the intended goal, because of unnatural dialog and a lack of chemistry between the leading lady and either actor the goal is not achieved. The central characters are too cartoonish to connect with. Oscar Issac and Christian Bale both throw themselves fully into the roles, but there just isn’t enough meat there to fully engage viewers. The cinematography is at times breathtaking. The score is beautiful. The costumes are glorious. The sets are incredible, but with a story this big if the script isn’t there nothing can save it.
Mikael Boghosian (Issac), is a young man who dreams of being a doctor. He can procure the money to study medicine if he agrees to marry a neighborhood woman whom he doesn’t love, Maral (Angela Sarafyan). When he goes to University to study he meets Ana (Le Bon) and they promptly fall in love. She’s in a committed relationship with Chris Myers (Bale), an American journalist. The Turks dive into the war and begin to slaughter the Armenian public. Mikael races home check on his family and honor his promise to marry Maral.
From here the characters begin separate journeys in attempts to flee from the Turks and protect and find love ones. There is a prison scene, there are orphans, there is a pregnancy and there is brutal murder. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t feel completely invested in the characters because they feel so distant and unreal. One is hard pressed to see how Charlotte Le Bon was cast in her role. She has zero chemistry with either of the actors and as my daughter said, “How hard is it to act like you love Oscar Issac and Christian Bale?” From what I can find online she is not of Armenian descent. Angela Sarafyan who is Armenian and has the smaller role of Maral oozes off of the screen. She has a quiet, rich performance. The handful of scenes with Sarafyan and Issac are the most memorable in the film. One can’t help but wonder how different the picture might be if she were given the role of Ana.
The Armenian story is fascinating, heart-breaking, and worthy of an incredible film to tell it’s story. Although the look and some of the talent is there, this film is lacking. With a stronger script and few different casting choices this could have been a noble telling of the Armenian struggle.
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
Director: Terry George
Writer: Terry George
Starring: Oscar Issac, Charlotte Le Bon, Chrisitan Bale, Angela Sarafyan
Runtime: 133 minutes
Release date: April 21, 2017
MPAA rating: PG-13