by Charles Kirkland, Jr.
A heart-breaking romance story set to the events of World War I comes to life on the screen in The Promise.
Armenian Mikael Bogosian (Oscar Isaac) is an apothecary in his hometown of Sidoun in the Armenian area of the Ottoman Empire. He desires to become a doctor in order to provide proper medical care for the people in his village. Unfortunately, being an apothecary is not the best paying job and Mikael does not have the money to pay for the medical training he wishes to receive in Constantinople. Mikael and his father enter into a promise to marry his neighbor’s daughter, Maral (Angela Sarafyan) in order to use the dowry (300 gold pieces) to pay for his schooling. In Constantinople, Michael meets the captivating dancer, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) another Armenian who is attached to an American journalist, Chris Myers (Christian Bale). War breaks out in 1914 and the Turks start rounding up the Armenians to put them in work camps and to evict them from their homeland.
Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse) delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as a conflicted Armenian who is torn between the promises he has made and pleas of his heart. From the moment that LeBon’s character, Ana, appears on-screen, we all know that Isaac is drawn to her but with war, betrothal and duty fighting them, can that love win out over all?
The Promise is a beautifully constructed love tale set in the tragic times of the Armenian Genocide where over 1.5 million predominately Christian Armenians were exterminated at the hands of Muslim Turkish soldiers (Turkey formally denies the occurrence). Appropriately tragic in its own right, this movie enthralls and captivates its viewers while unfolding some of the horrors of the second largest holocaust in world history.
The small problem with the movie is the fact that in a movie about Armenians in World War I, Angela Sarafyan is the only Armenian major actor. Shohreh Aghdashloo, an Iranian, plays the mother of Mikael is the only other actor that is closely cast. Isaac (Hispanic), Le Bon (French) lead the reverse whitewashed cast. Is it a problem? Maybe, maybe not. My advice, enjoy this movie for what it is, a well-crafted epic story.
Rated PG-13 for violence, The Promise, reminiscent of The Cut and Mother, is a gorgeous and powerful fictional story set against an unflinching account of an ugly, reprehensible period in world history. Director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) has again composed a film that is worth experiencing.