Christmas brings out reactions in us that we might be too reserved to give vent to at other times of the year. Maybe that’s why films about the festive season, or those set in and around it, have such an emotional impact on us –and why they last down through the ages.
I’m thinking of classics like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life, which will no doubt be shown on various TV channels over the holiday period. As we watch them – again – no doubt we’ll drown ourselves in the feelings of goodwill they call up. What’s the betting they’ll also show Holiday Inn and White Christmas? The Apartment is another favourite of mine. Who could resist the sight of Shirley MacLaine running down the street to be with Jack Lemmon on New Year’s Eve night with her head back as her hair blows in the wind?
On the big screen there’s The Man Who Invented Christmas. It’s not about the Messiah but rather Charles Dickens. It focuses on his book A Christmas Carol. He self-published this under some duress after his previous three books failed to enthuse the public. Like a lot of self-published books, it went on to become his most well-known one. Dan Stevens plays Dickens. Christopher Plummer is Scrooge.
Other films that should interest children over the Christmas period are Brigsby Bear, built around the TV show, and Lu Over the Wall, which centres on a middle school student called Kai whose life changes after meeting the mermaid of the title.
Song of Granite documents the life of the great sean-nós singer Joe Heaney from the west of Ireland. Happy End is a family drama set in Calais against the backdrop of the European refugee crisis. It stars Isabelle Huppert and veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant. The Disaster Artist deals with the friendship between two actors appearing in a poor cult film.
Roman J. Israel Esq. features the very busy Colin Farrell as a ruthless lawyer who recruits the idealistic title character (Denzel Washington) to his firm. Better Watch Out is a comedy thriller about a babysitter and the 12-year-old child she’s minding being terrorised by invaders.
Stronger is the inspirational story of Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. He became a role model for people in the gallant way he dealt with the loss of his legs in the explosion. Bauman, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, was important to the police investigating the atrocity because he identified one of the brothers responsible for it.
Wonder is another inspirational story, this one based on the life of August Pullman, a boy whose facial deformity makes him the butt of jeers from other pupils when he attends school for the first time. He’s played by Jacob Tremblay, who was so entrancing in Room. Julia Roberts is the mother who gives him the belief in himself that helps him overcome the taunts, and become quite extraordinary by the end.