Chris (Steve Le Marquand) was once a famous actor, featuring in many hit films. However, a growing addiction to alcohol changed everything for the worse. Not only did Chris find himself in rehab, but over the years, he has become highly distant from his only daughter, Noelle (Nicole Pastor). After doing well at rehab, Chris is released with terms and conditions: he needs to live under the supervision and assistance of Nick (Darren Gilshenan).
Now, determined to start fresh with his life leading up to Christmas, Chris gets motivated and begins to seek a paying job. With success, Chris gets a job working as Santa Claus in a nearby local shopping centre. However, one day, while working and wearing the jolly red suit, Chris accidentally crosses paths with Noelle. Shocked and embarrassed, Noelle runs off, and Chris feels sad, ashamed, and desperate for a drink. Thankfully, Chris contacts Nick during his moment of weakness, and he comes to his aid urgently. After processing his current life and the hurdle in front of him, Chris decides he would like to have Noelle over for Christmas lunch. He begins to try and earn her forgiveness, hoping for a second chance at being a father. After all, Christmas is a season to love and forgive, right?
Christmess is best described as a drama film with minor moments of uplifting comedy. Director Heath Davis, who has previously worked with Steve Le Marquand in both Broke (2016) and Book Week (2018), tells a touching story of a man trying to grasp a second chance at life while dealing with temptation and his past wrongdoings. It’s an inspirational story, and it’s impacting to see Chris going on such a personal journey with hopes of turning his life upside down. I loved the themes of rejection, forgiveness, friendship, and family. It’s also a friendly reminder for the world that not everyone’s Christmas is filled with peace and joy; for some, it’s the most challenging time of the year.
Performance-wise, I truly admired the work of Steve Le Marquand as Chris. It’s compelling and believable when Chris hits rock bottom and expresses emotion and heartbreak. Actor Darren Gilshenan as Nick also brings a highly likable presence to the screen, bringing both moments of giggle and worthy comedy to his lines. Still, I was surprised to witness great moments of drama shining brightly from him, too. As for the behind-the-camera, Director Heath Davis focuses on many great angles, and many creative choices are evident during tense and heavy-hitting scenes; however, I must confess, an unsteady camera is often present, and sometimes this took me out of the drama and heartfelt moments as it felt more distracting and less engaging.
Overall, I found Christmess to be a touching drama film with many great themes, including addiction, rejection, and the importance of friendship and family, even more during the joyful holiday seasons such as Christmas. Steve Le Marquand and Darren Gilshenan are brilliant in this feature, delivering genuinely heartfelt moments and, thankfully, even bringing a light touch of comedy with their skilled timing and line delivery. Christmess is a film that will stay with you. Visually, there’s no denying it; there are many great moments captured on-screen, but during crucial scenes, I couldn’t help wanting the camera to be more steady and less distracting at times. Granted, this could be a personal preference.
Christmess (2023) is Available in Australian Cineams from November 30th.