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A Promise (2013 film)

A Promise is a 2013 English-language French drama romance film directed by Patrice Leconte and written by Patrice Leconte and Jérôme Tonnerre. The story is based on Stefan Zweig's novel Journey into the Past and stars Rebecca Hall, Alan Rickman, Richard Madden, and Maggie Steed. It was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[2][3]

A Promise
A Promise (2013 film).jpg
Directed byPatrice Leconte
Written byPatrice Leconte
Jérôme Tonnerre
StarringRebecca Hall
Alan Rickman
Richard Madden
Maggie Steed
Shannon Tarbet
Jean-Louis Sbille
Music byGabriel Yared
CinematographyEduardo Serra
Edited byJoelle Hache
Release date
  • September 2013 (2013-09) (TIFF)
Running time
95 minutes
Budget$10.4 million
Box office$1 million[1]


In 1912 Germany, a freshly graduated engineer with modest origins, Friedrich Zeitz (Richard Madden), starts work at a steelworks owned by ageing tycoon Karl Hoffmeister (Alan Rickman). Hoffmeister is impressed by Zeitz's knowledge and commitment to the work, and Friedrich moves up through the ranks. When Hoffmeister's declining health starts to confine him permanently to his house, Friedrich has to visit him at home for briefings, which he then relays back to the steelworks. Through his visits, Friedrich makes the acquaintance of Hoffmeister's younger wife Charlotte (Rebecca Hall), a beautiful and reserved woman in her early 30s. He immediately becomes enamoured with her.

Friedrich begins to spend more time with the Hoffmeisters, tutoring their young son Otto. Hoffmeister asks Zeitz to move in with his family, so as to be as close as possible for business matters. Friedrich struggles with his growing feelings for Charlotte, not realising that they are reciprocated. Just as they disclose their mutual attraction towards one another, Friedrich has to leave the country to represent Hoffmeister on an overseas mining venture in Mexico. They make a promise to one another that, once Friedrich returns from Mexico, they can be together.

Charlotte and Friedrich communicate frequently in secret, but the outbreak of World War I and a military blockade prevent Friedrich from returning to Germany. Eventually the letters between the lovers are unable to pass through the blockade, and Charlotte begins to fear that Friedrich may be dead. Karl Hoffmeister dies of his illness, confessing to Charlotte that he should never have kept her and Friedrich apart. After the announcement that Germany has lost the war, Friedrich finally returns home. At first, the relationship between Charlotte and Friedrich is tense - so much has changed in the time they were apart - but they reunite.



Critical responseEdit

A Promise was generally panned by the critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 13% based on 23 reviews, with an average rating of 4/10.[5] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 36 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[6]

Critics commented on the quality of the film-making, but a number of reviewers criticised the lack of chemistry between the two leads. Justin Chang of Variety described the film as "awkward [and] passionless]"[7] and Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News commented "A romantic triangle featuring Rebecca Hall, Alan Rickman and "Game of Thrones" costar Richard Madden has no business being this dull".[8] David Parkinson of the Radio Times described the lack of spark between Madden and Hall as "unintentionally amusing".[9] Some critics suggested that perhaps issues of translation, as Patrice Leconte's first English-language film, may have been partially responsible.[10]

On the whole, critics felt that the film missed the mark as an adaptation. Robbie Collin, writing for The Telegraph, dismissed the film as "a classic Zweig narrative, as tight and prickly as a thorn-bush, pruned into a shapeless, leafy clump", while David Hughes of Empire advised "If you only watch one Stefan Zweig-inspired film this year, watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. If you watch two, see The Grand Budapest Hotel twice".[11]


Organization Award category Recipients and nominees Result
Beijing International Film Festival Best Supporting Actor Alan Rickman Won
Magritte Awards Best Foreign Film in Co-Production Patrice Leconte Nominated


  1. ^
  2. ^ "A Promise". TIFF. Archived from the original on 2013-08-16. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  3. ^ "Toronto Adds 75+ Titles To 2013 Edition". Indiewire. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  4. ^ "A Promise". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  5. ^ "A Promise (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  6. ^ "'A Promise'". Metacritic. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  7. ^ Chang, Justin. "Venice Film Review: 'A Promise'". Variety. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  8. ^ Weitzman, Elizabeth. "Movie reviews: 'Make Your Move,' 'Small Time,' 'A Promise,' 'Authors Anonymous'". Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  9. ^ Parkinson, David. "A Promise". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  10. ^ Collin, Robbie. "HOME»CULTURE»FILM»FILM REVIEWS A Promise, review: 'shapeless'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  11. ^ Hughes, David. "A Promise Review". Empire. Retrieved 14 June 2018.

External linksEdit