I am going to step off my soap box and give you my review of The Promise as a movie, and not as the potential conversation starter the film could become.

The Promise is set in 1914-1915 in Turkey. At this time Turkey was still part of the Turkish-ruled Ottoman Empire. The story follows Mikael (Oscar Isaac) a young man of Armenian descent who longs to become a doctor. While studying Medicine in Constantinople, Mikael makes friends with the son of a Turkish Official, a young woman, Ana, (Charlotte Le Bon) who teaches dance to the children of the family he is staying with, and Ana’s AP reporter boyfriends (Christian Bale). When World War I begins, war is also waged against the Arminians livening in the Ottoman Empire. Beyond the story of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire, is a story of love and the importance of family.

I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide before this film. This could be because Turkish leaders claim it never happened, or it could be because a lot of other things were happening in the world at this time. To be quite truthful I never studied the history of the Middle East other than Constantinople became Istanbul and that land was constantly being fought over in that region. I know a lot about what was happening in Germany, Russia, France as well as the U.S, but it was interesting to see the story of what was going on in a different, less talked about, part of the world in the early 1900s.

From a moviegoer’s standpoint, I struggled with a few things. First, I never quite figured out why the Turkish people did not like the Arminians. I can assume why, but there is not an explanation of a long-lasting disagreement. Since the film starts with Mikael befriending a Turkish fellow student, it seemed as if the exodus of the Arminians was sudden. Second, I did not connect with the characters. The movie is about a genocide, so I am not giving anything away when I say people died. While some moments caught my breath, there were no moments that raised an emotion deep enough to bring a tear to my eye. There were ample opportunities, but you could see a lot of those moments coming so they did not evoke an emotional response.

This movie is long, coming in at over two hours. At times the film is slow, but it held my attention the full time. I would have liked a little more backstory as to why the genocide took place since the film creators went into this film knowing it was a primarily untold story, and the slow parts could have easily been infused with a little more history. I appreciated the romance of the film as the romance is what kept me watching, but a deeper connection with the characters would have been nice. I would have liked to see a slightly shorter film with a deeper connection to the characters.

This is not a movie for entertainment purposes, but overall, I am going to give this movie a B-. It’s not fantastic, but I think it is a story worth telling. Most importantly I think this film shows a part of history that is often overshadowed by the wars in other parts of the World.


Mary Herries 

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