Christmas, Again

(USA 2015)

Nothing puts me in the Christmas spirit like a gloomy holiday story. Noel (Kentucker Audley) sells Christmas trees on a makeshift lot on a sidewalk in Brooklyn. He works an all-night 12-hour shift. He constantly has to ride his worker, Nick (Jason Shelton), and Nick’s girlfriend (Oona Roche) to get anything done. He fields petty questions and solves petty holiday problems for petty, self-absorbed customers. He sleeps and eats—I wouldn’t call it living—in a trailer on the street, where he survives on a diet of energy pills and antidepressants stashed in an Advent calendar. He buys scratch-off lottery tickets for fun. Oh yeah, he broke up with his girlfriend sometime in the last year. Noel seems lonely. Or is he just someone who doesn’t need the company of others?

One night while working, Noel comes across a woman, Lydia (Hannah Gross), passed out on a bench in a park. Their paths—and her jittery boyfriend’s—cross a few times, and that’s it. 

Christmas, Again probably is not going to end up being anyone’s favorite Christmas movie anytime soon, but it works on quite a few levels. More a string of quiet events than a full story, its real achievement is the mood it sets. Dolorous and blue, the camera moves slowly and blurs the background leaving only hints of cold colors. The cinematography (Sean Price Williams) is beautiful, making the shots literally an opaque blue. I loved the old distorted Christmas music that sounds like it’s playing from an AM radio, the Christmas lights permanently out of focus in the background, and the uneasy, unnatural, and sometimes suspenseful interactions between Noel and Lydia, both of whom are easy on the eyes. There’s a palpable sense of despondency that comes through here.

(Gene Siskel Film Center) B

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