The Promise is an ambitious film, falling short through trying to do too much.
Its three central characters, Mikael (Oscar Isaac), Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and Chris (Christian Bale) form a love triangle around which the story loosely revolves. Loosely, because Mikael’s story is really the centrepiece – and it is epic. Add to that the setting: the historically true depiction of Turkish atrocities against the Armenians during World War I, and you get a plot that is too congested for any of the elements to have emotional resonance.
The performances are all strong and the filming is beautiful, but the narrative is unreasonably focused on the two men and their love for the same woman which feels trite, even indulgent, given the enormity of what is happening around them. When some truly horrific events occur, they end up feeling like convenient plot points to serve the main story. It is a well made film and should satisfy those who enjoy a bit of melodrama with their war history.
Reviewed by Rita Bratovich.