Holiday Watch: Three Wise Women

This is what happens if you take equal parts A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life and set it in Ireland with the protagonist being a doctor who has sworn off love and is instead becoming married to her career.

The fascinating premise of Three Wise Women is a happy break from so many cookie-cutter Christmas films. It’s familiar and yet finds a way to be creative with familiar holiday tropes. The focus of change is Liz: an orthopedic doctor who is also researching a serum to heal spinal injuries. Though she has forsaken love, she is nonetheless on the fast-track to marry a hospital bigwig who keenly interested in fame and fortune.

In a less creative twist, Liz would either be met by three ghosts (past, present, future), or would be taken on an angelic flight of what-if. Instead, her still-innocent teenage self (Ellie) as well as her jaded and cynical possible-future self (Beth), come back to try to influence Liz into returning to the right road for her. These past and future doppelgängers are corporeal and can interact with their shared guardian angel (Tom) who has been prohibited from directly helping Liz.

This is a generally innocuous film that never reaches the heights it could have had the stakes been raised. The life Beth ends up with is sad, but I’d be hesitant to say it was tragic much less dire. Liz is never actually a Scrooge nor is she as beaten down as George Bailey. While there were many opportunities for heart-tugging moments, often they were muted. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. It’s actually good to have holiday movies that don’t send you through the emotional wringer.

Something that I really loved about this movie is that it is set in Dublin and uses Irish actors. While not extraordinary in itself (this is the second movie this year that Hallmark has set in Ireland), what is extraordinary is that it isn’t stereotypical Ireland. No peat-covered hovels. No obligatory pubbing. It’s a normal world. Homes are homes, work is work, shops are shops, and people are people. Nothing is preciously quaint. If there was any great message special to this film, it comes from this aspect. If it weren’t for the clearly not-American accents, this could easily be in a U.S. setting. How wonderful it is for a movie to show how alike we really are without boldly underlining it.

As I said, it’s a good movie that many will enjoy. Still, it’s not for everyone. It’s not an emotional roller-coaster and it isn’t wantonly manipulative. While the holiday setting is, as with It’s a Wonderful Life, somewhat beside the point, it does fit within the story enough that it isn’t just background. So, give Three Wise Women a chance. I’m glad I did.

3.5 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

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