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An Unmerry Christmas (Film reviews of Home for Christmas and A Good Heart)
by Becky Tan

Why was the Christmas holiday such a big factor in these festival films? And why was it such a miserable time for so many people? And why is Scandinavia so prominent in this holiday gloom?

At the end of the Icelandic film December the family is sitting morosely around the table for Christmas dinner. The mother has died, leaving unheard of debts. Jonni has crashed a Christmas tree at a party; his father is fading into Alzheimer. (See review below.)

Due to a miserable childhood, Leena (Noomi Rapace who played in the Stieg Larsson series) hasn’t seen her mother for years. Naturally at Christmastime, her mother lies dying in the hospital. Her husband convinces her to return for closure; her daughter didn’t even know that she had a grandmother.  (Beyond, Sweden)

In Home for Christmas a child is born in a forlorn house in the woods, after political events in Kosovo caused his parents to wander far away to Norway. Who could miss the Jesus symbolism? However, the best part – and the best of all the Christmas scenes at the festival – was a divorced father hiding in the garage and finding the Santa Claus suit of his wife’s new husband as well as the presents for the children. He dons the suit, rings the doorbell and thus gains access to his kids by playing Santa Claus, much to the astonishment of his wife. (Norway)

Paul loves Adriana, his wife and mother of his daughter. He also loves Raluca. By Tuesday, after Christmas decisions are expected. Will Raluca wait any longer? Will Paul decide between the two? Does Adriana know and will she accept the situation? Poor Christmas in Romania – nobody cares about it except the small daughter who dreams of Barbie gifts. Not even a final Christmas carol helps.   

In A Good Heart, the guests don funny holiday hats. In The Extra Man Louis destroys Harry’s collection of Christmas-tree balls in a fit of frustration and independence. Later, a girl gives him the decorations from the office Christmas tree, so that he will have a peace offering for Harry. In Last Cowboy Standing the presents for the kids ages six and eight, are a kitten and a BB gun – both symbolic of the horror to come. A lonely father and daughter celebrate Christmas in Curling. The more I think about it, the more holiday visions I see. Was there a candle in Chicas? What about the stocking in Mao’s Last Dancer? I’ll never innocently enjoy Christmas again or else I’ll have to stick to films  from Turkey or Iran and hope their holidays aren’t miserable. (BT)