Hidden Movie Gems: Week 3 (Christmas Edition)
The problem with finding a "Hidden Gem" is that the public has an appetite for Christmas movies that is so voracious that any movie about the holiday that has the potential to be even marginally non-sucky is rushed into distribution and advertised aggressively. It is a model of Hollywood behavior that seems to work pretty well as far as box office reciepts go, to the extent that any of them that are even slightly entertaining are ones that have been widely seen.
One minor exception to that rule was 2003's Love, Actually, which, though it did have a mainstream release and did OK in the reviews and box office, didn't really catch on as a hit. I enjoyed it, but it was kind of a movie that was all over the place: it had multiple, occasionally interwining stories, some of which were delightful and charming, and some which seemed to belong in another movie entirely. Also, the advertising for it didn't really help: it had some raunch, too much to be a family movie, but not enough go the "raunchy comedy" route. It had some poignaint relationship moments, but would immediately cut to another story and travel the "light and silly" romance path. In short, the movie didn't really seem to know what it wanted to be, and the ads for it just hashed together a bunch of non-related scenes that were more confusing than informing. I'm not recommending it due to the above reasons; if you see it and like it, remember that I pointed it out; if you see it and don't like it, remember that I didn't recommend it.
So though I don't have a Christmas movie to recommend, I will stick with a movie with religious themes:
It is rare that a family film is both visually sophisticated and emotionally nuanced.
This fantastical tale of two British brothers and the large sack of cash literally dropped onto them from the sky, is just that--a multi-layered, majestic feast for both the eyes and the mind. Yes, I hear you saying "Oh, two people find a bunch of (likely ill-gotten by someone else) cash and face delimma about what to do with it...Yawn". If you stop there, you will miss a terrific movie.
Young brothers Anthony and Damian Cunninham, whose initial response to their unexpected fortune is a Robin Hood-esque spree of charity, have only one week to spend their 265,000 British pounds before their nation switches over to the Euro. Though the premise may seem trite or predictable, unexpected details--including Damian’s ability to see visions of saints (they literally appear to him in the flesh, speak with him, and even give him a little temporal assistance later in the story) and the recent death of the boys' beloved mother--add complexity to the story. As the 7- and 9-year-old Cunningham brothers, lead actors Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon prove to be those exceptional child actors who are appealing without being precious and their understated, mature performances add gravity to a largely whimsical film.
This movie did not get a wide release, but it absolutely charmed critic and audiences that did see it, including your humble scribe. It's very enjoyable story well-told, and one everyone can enjoy.
Merry Christmas, and happy Hidden Movie Gems viewing!!!!