Freelance writer living in Manchester, UK. Also works in marketing for a dance organisation.
Published December 22nd 2016
The best Christmas film you've never seen
Elf, Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, The Grinch. After the 18th time they start to lose their charm, don't they? So now you're getting older, naturally growing ever more cynical, it's time to find new traditions. Different board games - perhaps a new December tipple even, but definitely a new annual Christmas flick. And boy have we got one for you. Welcome to the grittier side of Christmas cheer.
Almost Christmas is essentially a festive film for adults, starring the two wise men of Hollywood; Paul Rudd & Paul Giamatti. Funny man Paul Rudd you can imagine decking the halls, but eternal grump & year-round Scrooge, Giamatti, not so much. This Indie film is about recently released ex-con, Dennis (Giamatti), & his old associate, Rene (Rudd), going straight & going into business together selling Christmas trees in Brooklyn, New York. An early speed bump though, Rene has shacked up with Dennis' wife whilst he was locked up after a botched job together. In her anger, she told Dennis' daughter that he had died. Granted, not the merriest feel to a synopsis. But hey, Santa's for schmucks! This one hasn't been polished and covered in glitter for you either. It's raw and emotive with plenty of heart.
Driving from Quebec, Canada, to the outskirts of Brooklyn, tensions are high between the pair. Rene's business plan is as fragile as Dennis' parole & things go from bad to worse when rival tree selling professionals turn up across the street. Going straight is harder than it looks & their journey tempts them to indulge in old habits as Dennis is desperate to get his daughter a present, even if it won't be him handing it to her. Rudd & Giamatti's on-screen chemistry is a joy to behold & as their characters are forced to put their past behind them, they start to grow closer & more humble in each others company. Dennis' friendship with Russian customer Olga (Sally Hawkins) helps the two chase a path towards a happy Christmas - but with no promises made.
As a comedy-drama, Almost Christmas will leave you with a sackful of belly laughs as the rough around the edges characters try to deal with Brooklyn's residents. "What kind of tree do you want?" Rene asks a blind man. "One that doesn't look like it was bought by a blind guy."
It's a brilliantly crafted movie which will surprise you with all the festive feels. It's about family and regret and what's really important. It's about doing what's right, or failing that, what needs to be done. So if you're looking for a new tradition we thoroughly recommend pouring a mulled wine, baking a few mince pies & settling in on Christmas Eve with this perfectly cast flick & joyous soundtrack. Give it a chance, it's almost Christmas after all.