Monday, December 05, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Silver Bells (2005)

SILVER BELLS is a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV-movie about the life of a troubled family spanning two Christmases. It is darker fare than the typical holiday film, but it's also an absorbing and rewarding viewing experience with a nice emotional payoff at the film's conclusion.

Christopher "Christy" Byrne (Tate Donovan) is a widower running a Nova Scotia Christmas tree farm with the help of his children Danny (Michael Mitchell) and Bridget (Courtney Jines). Christy is very focused on earning a living and brushes off Danny's interest in photography and his school commitments. Danny is expected to make the business his priority; Christy hopes to one day hand the farm down to his son.

Danny runs away while the family is in New York selling Christmas trees, and despite his best efforts and the aid of the police, Christy is unable to find him over the course of the following year. Unbeknownst to Christy, Catherine (Anne Heche), a widow who lives near Christy's New York tree stand, has been helping Danny in various ways, including encouraging him to get his GED and apply to college, with the goal of becoming a professional photographer.

The story comes full circle when Christy and Bridget return to New York to sell their trees one year after Danny runs away.

This is a fairly gritty story, in which a number of sad things have happened to some good people. However, I liked that the story doesn't always go in quite the directions one might expect, and I also liked the way that Danny and Christy's difficult experiences gradually affect several other people in positive ways. The theme of good people helping one another through tough times is also uplifting.

I also appreciated the film's emotional restraint; the story could easily have become mawkish or cloying, but it's played in a clear-eyed fashion. When the film comes to its moving conclusion, it feels both realistic -- the future for all the characters is not written in stone -- and heartwarming.

The film's actors are all quite good, playing imperfect, very real people. There's one character, a real estate developer's son (John Benjamin Hickey), who is initially rather cartoonish, but even he is ultimately prevented from descending into caricature. The other supporting characters, including a policeman (Max Martini), Catherine's friend (Lourdes Benedicto), and Christy's New York landlady (Margo Martindale), are all very well portrayed.

SILVER BELLS was directed by Dick Lowry. It was based on a novel by Luanne Rice. The running time is 98 minutes.

SILVER BELLS is available on DVD. The DVD can be found in some Hallmark Gold Crown stores.

It was also released on VHS.

This movie will be shown on the Hallmark Channel December 15th and December 26th, 2011.

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