There’s about two thousand Christmas movies every year, right? Most are of the Lifetime breed, or just kids movies, full of genuine cheer, Christmas magic, and pretty intense corniness. Then, there’s the “alternative” Christmas movies, with outright cynicism that gets tiring pretty quickly. There’s really not a lot of movies like the fantastic Christmas, Again, a tiny and contained naturalistic drama that captures New York City at Christmastime through the eyes of one broken-hearted man.
Christmas, Again follows Noel (his ironic naming is the only thing like this in the film, and feels a little out of place), who sells Christmas trees in the middle of Manhattan while living in a camper parked next to the sales booth. Noel’s girlfriend of five years just left him, and in the contained story, we never learn how. It’s not important, and while other films might get stuck in the details Christmas, Again focuses on Joel’s present.
Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and Christmas music is everywhere in the film, but it all takes on a bitter quality at times without trying to be openly cynical and Scrooge-like. As Joel sells the trees and later delivers them to customers, we get short, yet intimate, glances into the many different lives. There’s agitated husbands, small children asking Noel if he works for Santa, and senior citizens who marvel at the live tree. All of is nice and understated, and it all works towards Noel’s misery.
The film doesn’t give Noel any clear cut answers to his broken heart, of course, but there are vague suggestions how he could achieve future happiness. Making others happy? A loving wife? The girl who he took in for a night after he found her passed out drunk on a park bench?
The girl is especially significant, as she- and her jealous boyfriend- work their way back into the film, but without really engaging any tired love triangle tropes. Joel’s other interactions include lazy coworkers, a demanding boss, and a drunk Polish homeless man who rambles about the old country. All of the characters feel so real, and are crafted with extreme attention to detail, even if the detail isn’t explain. Every slice of life encounter feels incredibly realistic, aided by the film’s natural and understated cinematography.
Christmas, Again is a great film by any means, but also feels like a great Christmas film, as it’s full of the holiday atmosphere, despite obviously not partaking in the caroling and egg nog. Director Charles Poekel- in his feature film debut- directs a powerful and realistic heartbroken trek through a New York Christmas, and every actor, even those with only one scene, deliver great performances. Kentucker Audley gives a great repressed performance as Noel in this Blue Christmas classic.