The world is filled with tragic stories, and stories that will make great movies. Ask anyone around you. We all know someone whose story should be a feature film. The stuff of real life makes for better drama than anything we can make up. The challenge, then, for the filmmaker, is to take that story and make it into a great film. THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS isn't a great film. It's a great story.
Megan [Candace Cameron Bure] is a successful businesswoman, wife and mother of two, who is lost in her drive for success. While taking her children trick-or-treating, she encounters a bunch of families decorating for Christmas. They are trying to provide one last Christmas for Dax Locke, a toddler in their neighborhood who is dying of a rare form of leukemia.
Curious, Megan reads Julie Locke's [Dax's mother] blog and learns about the Locke's journey. Julie's journey of grief inspires Megan to examine her own life and priorities.
Probably the best choice the filmmakers made was to tell the story from Megan's perspective. Now they have a chance to show what's unusual about the story – how it impacts other people. Of course, the efforts the Locke make to raise funds for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital will have a lasting impact on others, but by choosing another mom as the protagonist, they personalize a story in a way that will cause others to examine their lives and priorities. Smart choices.
Candace Cameron Bure as Megan is a very smart choice, as she brings life to the screen every time she's on it. Her experience in taking a paper on character and translating them into a three-dimensional person really shows to good effect here. Other seasoned television and film pros deliver as well: George Newbern as Dax's doctor and Dendrie Taylor as a mother whose child is in the same hospital deliver strong believable performances as well. New to film roles, Kelsey Marie Kingsbury and Anita Renfroe delivered fair, if uninspired performances, as Julie's mother and sister [respectively].
Where's the Drama?
My main disappointment was with the performance of Jeanne Neilson (Faith Like Potatoes), who had the main adult role as Dax's mother Julie, who inspired the whole film. From the beginning, her voice was flat, without any variation, and her entire performance, except for about five minutes, felt flat as well. A parent going through an ordeal like this is feeling a huge range of emotions, but what we mainly receive from her was a resigned moroseness that made what should have been dramatic highs and lows feel flat and lifeless.
Because it's a true story, people will empathize and still feel moved by the story as they imagine themselves in that same place. But if you're going to take the expense, time and effort to translate it into film, you want it to play like high drama. Not exaggerated, over-emphasized drama, but drama nonetheless. That is sadly lacking.
But then, this is just one person's opinion. You should watch it and decide for yourself.
THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS is not rated, but it's playing on Gospel Music Television, so you know there's nothing offensive in it.
Courtesy of a national publicist, Angela watched a preview of THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS.