“The Promise” puts love and friendship in the midst of genocide

I had the fortune to attend the world premiere of The Promise at this year’s TIFF, and let me tell you, if the sustained standing ovation was a clear sign for the film’s reception, then you can imagine how good the film may be.

In epic form, The Promise tells the story of a medical student caught up in love triangle that begins to unravel amid the dawn of war and its imminent atrocities. The film’s narrative deals with love, friendship, but ultimately, survival. With titles like Hotel Rwanda under his belt, Terry George is one of the few directors with the sensibilities to handle themes of genocide with the right level of prudence and attention to detail required—with The Promise, he absolutely does not disappoint.

The whole cast is simply wonderful, but I especially want to talk about Oscar Isaac. I consider him to be a gift to film, as he is perhaps one of the only men in Hollywood who can play “ethnically ambiguous” characters appropriately and gather attention. From what I’ve heard so far from fellow TIFF goers at the Q&A, Armenians think he actually seems Armenian. Oscar’s charm jumps off the screen once more, but his performance absolutely captures the character’s raw suffering. More than once I got chills from the anguish presented, that’s how good this guy is. If any criticism can be made about the performances, it is that perhaps George could have used Christian Bale in a role that shows his supreme abilities, and there was more to be desired.

I am curious to see how much more backlash this film will continue to receive, given that there have been numerous low ratings posted already by people who have not seen the movie. Because of the controversy behind the historical events this film is set against, there are more negative votes on platforms like IMDB than there were seats at the screenings. So a consensus is still yet to be made. The government of Turkey has never officially recognized the genocide but I believe it is important for Turkish people to give this film a chance, too. The story shows there were Turkish heroes and victims caught up in the atrocities of war and in the end they are not the real bad guys here: war is.

The Promise may not reach Hotel Rwanda‘s level of emotional response, but its historical importance, remarkable performances, and beautiful photography make it a title worth watching. George’s film will look to have a U.S. theatrical release later this year to enter Oscar contention, but this is still undetermined due to the controversy created following its TIFF premiere.

The Promise will be in theatres in late 2016 or early 2017.