The Promise is a love story – on its surface.
But the romance is merely the entry point for the real story of the film: the Armenian Genocide.
Believed to be the first modern genocide, and in fact the mass killings which spawned the very word ‘genocide’, the systematic killing of Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire from 1915 is not something that has been regularly made into films.
In comparison, there are countless films that deal with the Holocaust, but only a handful which delve into the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians.
The Promise follows Armenian medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as he takes to his studies in Constantinople at the start of World War I.
He meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon, The Walk), a French Armenian, and her American war correspondent partner Chris (Christian Bale, The Fighter) and the three fast become close.
Mikael, already betrothed to a woman back in his hometown, is attracted to Ana but does his best not to act on his feelings.
Ana, frustrated with Chris’ drinking, is also drifting away from her boyfriend and toward Mikael.
But their love story fades into the background once Mikael’s uncle is rounded up by authorities, simply for being Armenian.
This is just the start of the devastation, as more and more Armenian people are deported and slaughtered.
The Promise is directed with heart and compassion by Terry George, who has previously shown his skill at handling extremely tough subject matter with the immensely superb Hotel Rwanda.
The tragedy of The Promise is shocking and heart-wrenching and could move even the most stoic of viewers to tears.
It is, as cases of genocide are, unfathomable that such atrocities could be inflicted upon innocent people.
The love story is fictional, but the backdrop is historically accurate. The Promise is an important film, well conceived and perfectly acted.
Film fans who use IMDb.com ratings as a guide to good films should be advised to ignore this film’s current 5.9 score – a breakdown shows significant scores of both ‘1’ and ‘10’, from people of Armenian and Turkish heritage skewing the votes.