Since It's A Wonderful Life, and even Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas films have been tinged with imperfections—broken families, unfulfilled dreams, long-standing guilt or shame, homelessness. Recent examples include Four Christmases (divorce), Homeless for the Holidays, Joyeux Noel (trench warfare), This Christmas (estrangement), Sarah's Choice (unwanted pregnancy), A Christmas Hope (death of a child, death of a mother), even Elf (rejection and parental abandonment).
Why all the darkness at Christmas?
The Apostle John, whose version of the Nativity was the most impressionistic of the Gospel writers, probably explains it best: "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
Humanity is desperately in need of hope, and — all commercialism and political haranguing aside — that's what Christmas gives us: not the false assurance that all is goodness and light 24-7, but the very blessed assurance that hope abides.
A Christmas Snow falls squarely into this cinematic tradition.
In Tracy Trost's sophomore indie film, Catherine Mary Stewart stars as an uptight middle-aged restauranteur who's never felt lovable, and who hates Christmas because her father abandoned her family on Christmas Eve when she was a child. But Kathleen is nonetheless about to commit to widower Andrew, yet is hesitant about her ability to mother Andrew's young daughter Lucy, a precocious brat who has control issues of her own, and who misses her mother terribly. This is ironic for Kathleen, of course, because she doesn't miss her mother at all. Quite the opposite.
While making a late-night trip to the store, circumstances throw Kathleen in with Sam, an elderly drifter passing through Tulsa—and a freak Christmas storm traps Sam and Kathleen in Kathleen's home with Lucy, who's been left with Kathleen while Andrew's traveling on business.
Sam's got issues, too, of course. He's on his way across the country to be reconciled with his daughter, and the storm threatens to derail what may be his final wish.
Hope Wins Out
This being a Christmas movie, you may imagine that hope will win out in the end.
Trost's script is very inventive in managing the tropes of the genre. The first two acts follow the formula as you might imagine. The characters and their issues are introduced naturally as the story progresses, and by the time the titular storm arrives, the various character conflicts are agreeably established.
Snow Gleams in the Third Act
But Trost's third act is where A Christmas Snow gleams. By comparison, the opening act is tough sledding, as neither Kathleen nor Lucy are people with whom you'd like to be trapped for three days in a snow storm—much less two hours in the privacy of your own home. But as they warm to each other, they become much more agreeable; and by the time Trost's story winds its way to its mystical and redemptive conclusion, you'll be glad you spent time with Sam, Kathleen, and Lucy.
Stewart and Muse Watson, who plays Sam, are both longstanding industry veterans who do fine work with their characters here—and Cameron ten Napel, who has been acting in film and TV since she was about five years old, is engaging as young Lucy.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Yeah, that may be; but I don't know if I need yet another Christmas movie." I understand that. But if you're looking for one that helps tell your family the Real Christmas Story while it entertains with the classic cinematic approach, you really can't go wrong with A Christmas Snow. It's small, it's quiet, it's heart-warming—and it's charming.
A Christmas Snow is unrated. Nothing overly intense here. This one is safe for the whole family. I'd probably give it a G.
Courtesy of the film's producers, Greg was allowed access to the set during filming of A Christmas Snow, and screened an early cut of the DVD release.