Keri turns up unannounced at the family home four days before Christmas. His parents, Brian and Loma, have long given up on a dream retirement as their savings have been whittled away by financially supporting their family. Loma is close to a breakdown with the stress, and her relationship with Brian has been reduced to a series of well worn rituals. Their eldest daughter, Megan, is living in their basement with her two children, Faith and Moses, and her boyfriend Brett, the father of her daughter Faith. Moses is from an earlier failed relationship and is only tolerated by Brett. Megan is an obsessive character who believes that she is the only one who does anything about the house and is jealous of the attention that the others seem to get. As the film unfolds we see the depth of her struggle and disappointments in life. The other daughter, Donna, is an enigmatic character through the early parts of the film. She is isolated; silently smoking outside, or picking at her food in the ... Written by
NZ Film Commission
Is God too busy with his son's birthday party to answer my prayers for a quick death?
In New Zealand, Christmas falls during the onset of summer: in the far north, where Greg King's digital feature Christmas is set, it can reach a sweltering tropical humidity. It's hot and sticky which, depending on your mood and circumstances, may be either blissful or excruciating. The holiday itself is like that for many of us; if you've ever had a Yuletide break which felt more like a prison sentence than a reprieve, then this movie hits a chord which few others have ever managed to tap, and with expert precision and intensity at that.
Like a Kiwi Solondz, King's approach is to compassionately acknowledge the horror of being ordinary: the humiliation of being unable to change your face, your age, your past in a world where advertising and consumer market-research defines what makes a person good or successful. The shame of not being rich, famous, or supermodel-sexy is something even the most well-adjusted of us have pondered from time to time. King's gift is that he can summarise these feelings in simple single-person tableaux (the bathroom provides a fragile oasis of privacy where the depth of each character's inner conflicts are revealed wordlessly) and in direct, believable scenes of familial interaction, neither of which flinch where scenes in similar films might lose their nerve: each family member's pathetic attempt to hold on to their dignity, and the passive-aggressive means by which they do so, are immediately recognisable, and this makes the long, sustained takes unbearably tense, but also makes them appallingly funny and even strangely poignant. Especially when shot at a remove just gentle enough to afford the viewer both a vicarious intimacy with, and an objective overview of, all of the characters (the term "voyueristic" is not unwarranted).
It's a hard film to watch, but an even harder film not to admire once you've seen it through to the end. A bitterly funny, shockingly honest portrait of the individual hell that familial obligations demand we all endure from time-to-time - preferably in silence for fear of "ruining everybody's holiday".
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