Sometimes life gives you lemons. Huge, lemonade-defying lemons. When your husband of dubious life choices takes everything of worth and runs off with some vixen who has caught his eye, leaving you with three kids, no home, a tank of a car, and the clothes on your back…well, those are some pretty darned big lemons. This is where we find Martha Evens (Kristy Swanson) in A Christmas Wish.
Trying desperately to find a way to provide for her two daughters and stepson, Martha travels snowy mountain highways trying to find any place that can give her work. Being so near the holidays, it’s tough. But then she finds herself in a sleepy small town and wrangles a waitressing job at a local diner.
The joy of this movie is the idea that people will try to help people who are a little down on their luck. People who, with just a little help, can get back on their feet. Martha often finds herself relying on the kindness and generosity of people she barely knows. She seems to meet the sorts of people we’d like to think we are given half the chance. And this is the major problem with this movie.
Sad to say, Martha isn’t extraordinarily active in regards to her situation. This is all too common in real life as we can easily be overwhelmed by situations we are inexperienced with. However, in reel life our protagonists are expected to be more active than not with trying to change their situation. Instead, Martha is mostly reactive. While it allows the various characters in the town (including those played by the very welcome Tess Harper and Edward Herrmann) to show their generous spirit, it leaves Martha looking less than heroic.
The more secular minded might find some of the scenes a little preachy—especially those featuring elder daughter Mel (Kirstin Dorn) who seems to have depths of religious optimism not seen in a young one since Linus (of Peanuts fame). In fact, one of Martha’s few proactive events is the Christmas wish from the title. To be fair, since she’s on her knees and talking to God, it’s more of a prayer than a wish…and actually a bit more of a bargaining session than a prayer. Still, being in the spirit of the season, the religious sentiments don’t seem out of place.
One nagging quibble I have is with the ending. It feels like the movie stops a scene or two too soon. Yes, there’s a complete climax, but there is a denouement that is figuratively screaming to be seen. Instead, we fade out to the title crawl. It’s unsatisfying and, unfortunately, not unique to this film.
A Christmas Wish is serviceable. The kids and the adult supporting characters allow the movie to rise from mediocrity. Unfortunately, the writers left their hero blowing in the wind a bit. That Martha endures is commendable, but she really needs a bit more fight in her.
|2.5 of 5|
Photo: Copyright © 2011 Crown Media Networks, Inc./ Photographer Tyler Meiners
For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies