SYN Nation

Film Review: Happy Christmas


Happy Christmas, the latest indie film from director Joe Swanberg, is a comedy/drama semi-feel-good flick about family, relationships and how they clash and crash together.

Immediately we are introduced to a small and loving family: Kevin (Joe Swanberg), Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their son Jude (Jude Swanberg), who are setting up their family home in Chicago to welcome Jenny (Anna Kendrick), Kevin’s little sister, who is dealing with a recently painful breakup.

Jenny, as expected, is trouble. On her first night living with Kevin and Kelly, she is already ditching dish duty to party with her friend Carson. Jenny, who is still emotionally unstable from her break-up – one of the key attributes to her character – drinks herself into passing out, leaving Carson to call and wake Kevin in the middle of the night to come and collect her. Failing to prove herself on the first night, Jenny’s behaviour ultimately leads to Kelly believing Jenny to be untrustworthy and ultimately a ‘bad decision’.

This is where the story wanders in a new direction. Where the viewer is to believe that the story will focus around Jenny and her recovery of heartbreak, we discover a new and important sub plot: Kelly is having a hard time dealing with the misconceptions of motherhood, the noticeable ‘giving-up’ of her novel writing and how she now identifies herself as a mum.

Melanie Lynskey and Anna Kendrick both deliver a wonderful performance however; Jude Swanberg – Joe’s real life two-year-old son – often steals the show (even is he if only stuffing his face with cheerio’s). As a whole Happy Christmas lacks a bit of lustre, but it is the small joins in-between the larger story lines that bring the film together. And although Happy Christmas does travel a little slow, it brings to light a necessary modern viewpoint on parenthood and responsibility.

Rated 3/5 stars.

Written by: Chloe Watson, August 2014

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