It’s a sunny, warm time at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, but with a movie like SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS, it’s totally okay to get a little bit festival. Go ahead, it’s good for you.

About II: Christmas—it’s the most wonderful time of the year, except when it isn’t. In a quiet little Irish town, anticipation for the impending holiday season is growing. Christmas trees are cut, colorful lights and evergreen garlands trim the eaves, children diligently write letters to Santa, and festive music is everywhere. It’s all getting very bright and very loud, and before you know it, very expensive, too. In his latest documentary, So This Is Christmas, filmmaker Ken Wardrop (Making the Grade, SIFF 2018) navigates the fraught emotions that the holidays evoke. For Loretta, an unemployed mother of three, it’s the desire to give your children what they want while also managing realistic expectations. Meanwhile, Jason, a recently widowed father, tries to make this year’s celebrations as cheerful as possible for his two boys, despite the huge, undeniable absence in their lives. And what does a Yuletide feast represent when you suffer from an eating disorder? Yet even those who are among the most Christmas-skeptic happen upon true moments of exuberance and glee. By juxtaposing these stories in a mosaic-like narrative, a larger, more profound picture of the Christmas Season emerges, full of all the joys, sorrows, and ambivalence found in everyday life. (Credit: Dan Doody)

Reaction: A beyond delightful documentary that absolutely has it ALL; humour, sadness, heart and an absolutely breathtaking visual design that I feel like I have never seen before, yet it all feels so familiar and welcome. SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS absolutely nails the experience of a small town and the Christmas experience from many perspectives of families, mostly of lower economic class. This plays all so real but also cinematic; most sequences feature quite a few cameras, even hidden ones, making it feel like a narrative. As well, filmmaker Ken Wardrop frames his subjects and shows them in such a way that gives it a Ken Loach/Mike Leigh vibe at times, and it’s a huge compliment to the material. SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS also looks terrific too, being shot on 35mm negative and should look wonderful on the big screen. Don’t miss this one, and I am hoping this becomes available to own as a Christmas staple. 

SIFF Media

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