The leading lady seem to sum up this film when she said ‘It took us a long time to get here…

A Promise is a film that I had a very hard time enjoying. While it has some lovely cinematography and some amazingly pretty scenes of pre-World War One Germany, the story itself is amazingly sterile and bereft of energy.

When the story begins, Friedrich (Richard Madden) is an amazingly capable and efficient assistant. Over time, he becomes invaluable to the boss, Herr Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman) and is his trusted aid. So, when Hoffmeister becomes ill and cannot remain on the job, he invites Friedrick to come to his home and relay his instructions to the factory. Each day Friedrich shuttles back and forth from work to the Hoffmeister home–where he slowly begins to notice the boss’ wife, Lotte Hoffmeister (Rebecca Hall). She is significantly younger than her husband and over time, she and Friedrich become more and more friendly and eventually he becomes almost like a member of the family–taking the young son and his mother on various outings. It’s not surprising that Friedrich develops feelings for her…and then her husband sends Friedrich to be the company’s liaison in Mexico. What’s to become of their relationship? And, more importantly, does the audience even care?!

A Promise
Directed by
Patrice Leconte
Cast
Rebecca Hall, Alan Rickman, Richard Madden
Release Date
Out Now
Martin’s Grade: D+

As I sat and watched this film, several things struck me. The entire project was very, very lifeless. Throughout EVERYTHING, Friedrich and the boss’ wife showed almost no energy and there was really almost no chemistry between them. They eventually SAID they loved each other but you wonder where this came from. As for him, you can tell he’s obsessed as he spends his time sniffing where the Missus had been (THIS IS SO CREEPY). But with her, you really have no idea she reciprocates the feelings during so much of the movie because she is so incredibly restrained…too restrained. For the most part, the film is about repressed feelings and you almost never see them expressed. Had you LIKED the characters, this pain would have actually made the film quite intriguing. But, because it’s very difficult to care about them, the film is so very, very dull. In essence, the film lacked romance–which is BAD because it’s supposed to be a romance!


I should add to this that MUCH of the film occurs during WWI and the film barely even mentions it (like it’s a minor inconvenience that gets in the way of their love) and you are left baffled at so much of the film. Most baffling is the pair FINALLY meet long after the war is over…and their conversation is stilted and ultra-bizarre. I call it a case of poorly written and difficult to believe dialog and you just have to hear it to believe it. Overall, other than the lovely costumes, sets, music and cinematography, I cannot find much about A Promise that would get me to recommend it.

By the way, the DVD for this film follows an annoying new trend. You cannot easily play the film but must slog through many promos for other films, as the MENU feature and SKIP buttons are disabled. You can use the FAST FORWARD keys but must hit them repeatedly to skip past each ad.

by Martin Hafer