Its eight days until Christmas day and everyone is abuzz buying presents, decorating the tree and of course – watching some festive films. I thought it was appropriate to write a short piece on the movies that capture the spirit of Christmas for me, which will hopefully inspire you guys to seek them out and enjoy for yourselves.
Synopsis: Released in 2003, Love Actually focuses on an array of different characters who’s stories eventually come together in one way or another. Set in London and France the film f0llows a set of relationships, some romantic, some family-based and some of friendship, but all ones which wonderfully (and at times, quite realistically) display the ups and downs that people face together. Starring Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Rowan Atkinson (in a brief but distinctly memorable performance), Liam Neeson and so many more, this is an adult Christmas film exploring the beauty and abundance of love at this time of year.
Verdict: While Love Actually isn’t a family Christmas film, it is certainly an enjoyable one. Its incredibly relatable in a manner of ways, from the marital struggles we see Karen (Thompson) and Harry (Alan Rickman) go through, to the loss of a loved one that Daniel (Neeson) and his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) are coping with. Beyond the realism of situations that many find themselves dealing with in life is the fantasy element that makes this a great whimsical picture when a break from the real is needed. Some of these moments include a romantic gesture at the airport and a rather humorous, but tender relationship between the Prime minister (Hugh Grant) and his employee. There is one particular stand out scene involving a set of cue cards, which will pull at your heart strings and remind you how wonderful people can be. Richard Curtis is known for portraying great characters and directing their interesting stories in a thoroughly accessible way, this is no different; You will cry. You will laugh. You will cringe, but you will remember the importance of reminding those around you just how much you care about them – and that is the great, underlying power of Curtis’ Love Actually.
Synopsis: Originally a novel, Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 adaptation takes the classic story of the March sisters, cleverly using the magic and warmth that can be read on page and bringing that to the screen. The film follows the lives of Jo (Winona Ryder), Meg (Trini Alvarado), Beth (Claire Danes) and Amy (Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis) as they take on the duty of keeping up their education, as well as their home in order while their father is away at war. The film spans five years and takes the audience on an emotional journey which studies the transition between adolescence and adulthood.
Verdict: While not everyone will see this as a Christmas film it is, to me, a constant reminder of the festive time of year, no matter what month you watch it in. It features two Christmas’ (which makes it valid here, right?) and the cinematography and mise-en-scene of 1800’s America is warming in itself – candle light, luscious furnishings and horse and carriage all make this a brilliant historical tale. Winona Ryder is a triumph as protagonist Jo, a young woman with a penchant for writing and a big heart. Claire Danes, while not featured heavily, transcends the feeling of being a younger sibling watching her elders fly the nest, and her performance as Beth is genuine and touching. Susan Sarandon provides depth and maturity in her role as Mrs. March, a role which parents will find themselves taken with. The whole piece channels the importance of family and specifically the bond of the March sisters through a difficult time in American history (the civil war). Little Women demonstrates the ties of sisterhood and furthermore the joy of being together, especially at Christmas.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Synopsis: Director Brian Henson transports the classic tale of the Christmas Carol to The Muppet era, with audience favourites Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and a whole host more translating the well-known story into an accessible tale for the entire family. Michael Caine stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, a man visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night who are keen to change his views on life. What ensues is a humorous and spirited journey into a London full of colourful Muppet‘s attempting to befriend the grumpy old man.
Verdict: The Muppet Christmas Carol may not be the best festive film ever made, but it might possibly be the most warmhearted. The entire piece is an ode to Christmas, and an ode to classic Christmas tales. Henson celebrates this time of year, making the film fun for children (thanks should be given to characters such as Tiny Tim and Fozzie Bear) as well as it being seemingly enjoyable for adults too. It’s easy to find yourself immersed into the story of Kermit and his family, and you forget that these are in fact puppets. The musical junctures strengthen the movie and to see Caine take on the classic role of Scrooge, and run with it, further propels you to love this film. The power of The Muppet Christmas Carol isn’t in its message (although ones of the importance of giving and kindness can definitely be seen) but just in its ability to allow you to sit back, not over-think and relish in the relaxation of viewing an easy-going film at a busy time of year.
To some these might not be classic examples of festive cinema, but to me they exemplify what Christmas is all about – family, love, friendship and giving. And beyond that, they are three films that are a pleasure to watch time and again.