Television Film | Fantasy | UK | English | 1h29m
Dir: John Hay | Scr: John Hay & David Logan | DP: Graham Frake | Prod: Elliot Jenkins | Mus: Debbie Wiseman | Ed: Matthew Tabern | PD: Jason Carlin | Cast: Larry Mills, Eddie Izzard, Jason Flemyng, Connie Hyde, Brett Fancy, Sorcha Cusack, Adlyn Ross, Christine Bottomley, Steven Mackintosh, Chloe Newsome, Geoffrey Palmer
Films that rely upon divine intervention for their happy endings are, for the rational minded amongst us, inherently sad. For instance, most people think of It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as being a feel-good film, when in reality it is nothing of the sort. Remove the fantastical from the story, and all you are left with is one decidedly dead George Bailey. Whilst others are crying at the beautiful miracle of its resolution, the rest of us are left to cry at the tragedy of it all. And so for me, it is this other-worldly element, in all its brazen unreality, that underlines and accentuates the earthy crappiness that sits just below the surface of such tales to such a level that no social-realist misery-fest could ever hope to match it. Which brings me to this charmingly diverting though decidedly imperfect “urban fairy-tale” – a child-centred cross between the aforementioned yuletide favourite and Charles Dickens’s much filmed novella A Christmas Carol (1843) (with a bit of Shameless thrown in for good measure), in which a mysterious amnesia-suffering stranger (Izzard) helps several people, in particular an orphaned young boy (Mills), to find a number of seemingly-though-not-actually-unrelated things that they have lost, on an snowy Manchester Christmas Eve. Despite the familiar-feeling storyline, Hay’s reasonably well crafted film is seldom predictable, and its performances are all fine. However, Wiseman’s score often feels rather intrusive and is more than a tad manipulative in spots, dampening its emotional power by overemphasising it. Never the less, by the time it reaches its surprisingly powerful conclusion, you’d have to be a particularly hard-hearted person not to be moved by its (not-really) happy ending in some way.