Jamaica Gleaner / Almost Christmas
Despite being declared the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, Christmas has its fair share of critics. Truly, some people don’t enjoy agonising over the perfect gift and then spending money on it, for people that they don’t really care for. That last bit is at the heart of Almost Christmas , a movie that tries to capture the awkward tension inherent with family gatherings. Isn’t Christmas grand?
For all its attempts at emulating a complex family dynamic, Almost Christmas mostly misses the mark. Danny Glover’s Walter is the patriarch of a big family, whose members bring not only their luggage, but all their baggage too. Baggage that seems a little too familiar. There’s the dad that works too much, the sisters who’ve hated each other since they were little. Every character in the film is instantly recognisable, which makes it fairly easy to figure out where everyone will end up when the cameras stop rolling.
Predictability doesn’t make or break a film. The most formulaic of films can have several moments that delight and excite. In the case of Almost Christmas , those moments are few. Much of the humour is reliant on slapstick, like the wacky uncle falling off a roof after trying to fix a broken roof ornament. While hilarious in a cartoon, when it’s a JB Smoove, it’s a little sad.
If you find yourself feeling sad more than once in Almost Christmas , that’s because underneath the so-so comedy is a story of a family attempting to make it through the holidays in mourning. It’s the first Christmas since Walter’s wife died, and the movie is full of heart-warming scenes of different characters working through that grief. Sometimes these scenes seem sudden, completely different in tone from the comedic scenes that played before it. Truthfully, though, that’s an honest depiction of grief. It sneaks up on people when they least expect it.
On the whole, the movie is a collection of stories and scenes that are mostly expected. At the time of year when you’ve already spent money you didn’t want to spend, then perhaps save what you have left and miss this one. Next year when it comes on cable, put it on, so you can avoid talking to those relatives you wish you didn’t have to see for an hour and a half.