The genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in the early part of the 20th century is a mostly ignored — and sometimes intentionally suppressed — chapter in world history, which makes its use as a backdrop in the lackluster melodrama of "The Promise" all the more disappointing.
Certainly director Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda" and his credited co-screenwriter, Robin Swicord, had their hearts in the right place. But their storytelling conventions — namely, a by-the-numbers love triangle — trivialize the history and squander a talented cast.
It's 1914, on the eve of World War I, and Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), an Armenian, has a dream: to leave his little village in Anatolia, where he's the local apothecary, to enroll in medical school in Constantinople (now Istanbul). To raise the money, he agrees to a betrothal to Maral (Angela Sarafyan) and to use the dowry to pay his way.