The Downer Days of Christmas (Film Review: “Christmas, Again”)

An antidote to the relentless holiday genre movie, Christmas, Again is a quietly observed character portrait and anything but a Hallmark card.

SnapShot Plot

It’s not a very merry Christmas for a seasonal tree vendor – ironically named Noel – returning to his New York City street corner after a heartbreaking split with his longtime girlfriend. Working 16 hour days, sleeping in his trailer, getting no rest from the strenuous yet dreary task of packing, hauling and lifting the trees, day after day, he trudges through his work like a barely awake sleepwalker. When his returning customers ask where’s that nice woman who used to be with him in years past, he’ll only say something like, “She’s not around this year.” Yet behind his stony facade and his relentless work ethic, we can see that this is a man who’s struggling with a serious depression. His loneliness and personal isolation are palpable, even as he deals with a variety of neighborhood customers and characters, including one mysterious young woman he literally carries home one night.

 

 

Parting Shot

Talk about research for a feature film debut . . . Writer/Director Charles Poekel decided that the only way to fully grasp the experience of a seasonal Christmas tree vendor in New York City would be to actually be one himself. He’s had his own tree stand in the neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn for almost five years, where his lead actor, Kentucker Audley put in his time doing the job he would later portray in the film. A word about Kentucky Audley. There’s something intrinsically appealing and interesting about him in a very old-fashioned Hollywood way. A decency in the eyes, a pure physicality that speaks volumes where dialogue isn’t needed. We root for this guy, and we hardly even know him.

What makes this film captivating is the emphasis on Mood over Plot. You may wonder what keeps you in your seat during much of this little movie, as there are no dramatic character arcs or narrative movements, no aha moments of discovery or revelation. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams actually shot the film in a slightly grainy, muted way which does much to convey the feel of the place and the subtle tonal changes between night and day, all sealing the deal to help us experience these days through Noel’s weary eyes.

Christmas, Again is a quiet little movie for those of us who don’t like to be knocked over the head with an overdose of holiday cheer. It’s the kind of film that proves that sometimes it feels good not to feel good. Sometimes, all we need is a simple focus on one person’s take on the human scenery around him, and if some pure distillation of Christmas spirit shakes loose like errant pine needles on the ground, well there’s some magic in that.

Featured Image Courtesy of:  https://www.fandor.com/movie-genres/independent-films-147

YouTube Trailer Courtesy of:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZGHw3uJJAk

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