A New York Winter’s Tale (12A) **

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Love never dies. Nor do stories of good versus evil, screenwriters with a burning desire to sit in the director’s chair or high-profile actors with a dubious ear for Oirish accents.

We’re treated to all three plus Will Smith as Lucifer in the fantastical romance, A New York Winter’s Tale.

Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, the stars of A New York Winter's Tale.

Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay, the stars of A New York Winter's Tale.

Akiva Goldman’s film is based on the novel Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin but has been re-titled for the UK, presumably to avoid any confusion with Shakespeare’s 17th century problem play.

In truth, no one is likely to confuse the Bard’s impeccable verse with Goldsman’s shambolic script, which includes such gems as ‘Nothing seems to break [the human] capacity for hope - they pass it back and forth like flu at a school fair’.

Narrative threads unfold in 1916 and present day Manhattan.

In the past, petty thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) breaks into a house and is instantly bewitched by a flame-haired stargazer called Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), who has consumption.

‘I’m pulled to her, like air when I’m under the water,’ Peter swoons to a pal (Graham Greene).

So Peter spends every waking minute with Beverly, and prepares for a beating from sadistic Irish gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), who wants Peter dead and also happens to be an earthbound demon on a mission to restore Lucifer (Smith) to power.

Meanwhile, in 2014, Peter (Farrell again) is alive but not so well.

He has no memory of the past but is haunted by visions of a girl with red hair.

The quest to repair his fractured memory magically leads him to a newspaper food writer (Jennifer Connolly) and her feisty daughter (Ripley Sobo).

A New York Winter’s Tale has too many elements competing for our attention, and unfortunately, none of them gels.

The titanic battle between angels and demons sits awkwardly with the rose-tinted central romance and the tear-filled histrionics of the final act.

Farrell is unremarkable in an undernourished lead role but he does catalyse a handsome screen pairing with Brown Findlay.

And Crowe’s accent is a treat, becoming as thick as mud without warning in pivotal scenes.

Finding one word to succinctly sum this disjointed mess seems unlikely but as Goldsman’s film teaches us, the secrets of the universe twinkle in plain sight.

And so it is here: Beverly gazes at the heavens and is bewitched by the constellations that she believes represent the fluttering wings of angels.

‘Pollux,’ she whispers dreamily. Everyone’s a critic.