Ever been dumped at Christmas? If so, Charles Poekel’s yuletide misery tale Christmas, Again will prove unfortunately familiar for you. Give it time though, and it might just teach you a thing or two about the grieving process.
Kentucker Audley delivers a tender portrayal of festive alienation as Noel, a young man working the streets of New York selling Christmas trees. Amidst stupid customers and lazy co-workers, Noel is simply trying to survive without breaking down, but after bringing an unconscious young woman home one night, his December starts to take a different direction than previously anticipated.
Commendable for realistically dealing with flirtations and passing friendships, writer/director/producer Poekel has a tight hold on this tender character piece. Audley is superb, but his consistently miserable performance can be a bit much until you start to share his headspace. The few moments of staunch emotion are apt and perfectly placed to articulate Noel’s pain and the point of the film as a whole. Poekel wants us to think about encounters we try to cling to, putting a hand on the viewer’s shoulder to assure us that its ok, friendships are sometimes doomed to end just as abruptly as they began.
Oddly this film feels like its for anyone who’s worked in retail or the service industry during the festive season too, proving itself a sharp satirical work whenever Noel is forced into awkward encounters with awful, pernickety, and downright infuriating customers. Keeping the script light means that the focus is elsewhere, on the performances and the camera work. Sean Price Williams keeps the project sedate and lacking in a flashiness that might have proved overbearing on the tight character work. Shooting on film gives the feature a depth and substance that might otherwise have been lost in the polished veneer of digital.
Christmas, Again is a muted affair, balanced precariously on the line between intriguing vignette and wide-scoped essay on capitalism, Christmas, and love. The film’s finest flourish comes in the form of the fantastic Kentucker Audley who channels an ocean of pain in an honest portrayal of heartache in the festive season.
Dir. Charles Poekel
Stars. Kentucker Audley, Craig Butta, Maria Cantillo, Hannah Gross