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Home by Christmas (2010)

6.8
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A film memoir based on NZ filmmaker Gaylene Preston's interviews with her father about his World War II experiences.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Tony Barry ...
Ed
Tai Berdinner-Blades ...
Tui's Sister - Ida
Rowan Bettjeman ...
Lofty
...
Les Harker
...
Mart Preston
Tina Cleary ...
Tui's Mother
Byron Coll ...
Hoppy
Megan Edwards ...
Ed's mother
Tim Gordon ...
Dad Preston
...
Sgt Syd Gurton
Sophie Hambleton ...
Tui's Sister - Mavis
...
Young Ed
David Hoskins ...
Jack Smith
Robin Kerr ...
Ned
...
Vic
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Storyline

A true story of romance, secrets and terrible adventure in which Ed Preston, on his way home from rugby practice in 1940, joins the New Zealand Army to go to World War II. His new wife, Tui, is pregnant and distraught, but he tells her not to worry, he'll be home by Christmas. And so he is - four years later - after escaping from a prison camp in Italy. But while Ed is away, Tui has fallen in love with another man. A remarkable story of resilience, determination and love. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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a film memoir of love, war and secrets

Genres:

Biography | Romance | War

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29 April 2010 (New Zealand)  »

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1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A Lesson in History, Humanity and Perspective
28 April 2010 | by (Auckland, New Zealand) – See all my reviews

Home by Christmas is the type of story that New Zealanders tell best: Ordinary people being plain ordinary in extraordinary circumstances.

New Zealand is an ordinary country. New Zealanders will tell you that. Occasionally punctuated by remarkable deeds of human strength, stamina and discovery, its history is quite brief and unremarkable. Others perceive Kiwi achievements as extraordinary, and they certainly are, even the ones that don't include scaling peaks, but it's not the New Zealand way to overstate. They don't like to make a fuss.

In 1995, Gaylene Preston shot a beautiful doco "War Stories Our Mothers Never Told us" about a variety of women left at home during the second world war. These weren't tales of struggle, hardship or heroism (though many could qualify). These were the now-elderly women reflecting on how their simple but happy existence was affected by war, change and the American GI. I could almost imagine each subject when asked to tell their story on camera, responding: "What's so special about me?" Each individual though, and her story, was special in its personal insight. Preston's mother Tui was one of those interviewed and fifteen years later, telling her father's story of a man who went to war to "do his bit", Home by Christmas is the director's worthy companion piece. I suspect Preston would've preferred to use her father, the real Eddie Preston, as an interview subject, but he died in 1997, so instead, actor Tony Barry (in a brilliant performance) portrays Eddie being interviewed by the director herself, and his reminiscences are intertwined with archival footage and stills, with dramatic recreations, both home and away, featuring Martin Henderson as his younger self, and Gaylene Preston's daughter Chelsie as Tui.

What makes this film so worthwhile is its subtlety. These are real people. Eddie tells his tales with as much (or little) hyperbole as he might describing his day at work, or a fitting for a new suit: "Then we hopped on the boat; then we were robbed; then we were caught etc etc..." Going to war just didn't seem remarkable to Eddie and his mates, perhaps because it wasn't - it was only 20 years since the last big one after all. So here we had a young Kiwi lad, who traveled to the other side of the world - and let's face it, when you were as far away as New Zealand, it might as well've been the moon - fought in a war that he probably didn't understand and somehow managed to adapt and survive it.

This was and is the Kiwi way: don't complain, it won't do you any good, just get on with it. Don't expect a pat on the back, but if you get one, all well and good, just don't let it go to your head.

And this is the mood, the ethos, the characteristic, the feeling and the flavour of a country, its people and a time that Gaylene Preston captures perfectly.

This is a wonderful movie, a story of a time gone by, and a lesson in history, humanity and perspective for us all.


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