Is it too early for Christmas films? I'm not usually the sort of person to go for a Christmas movie (my Christmas film tradition, ie the film I watch each Christmas, is Comfort and Joy whose quirky charms only really pay lip service to the season) But last night, flicking through Sky On Demand with two hours to kill before The Apprentice or I'm A Celebrity I came across the opportunity to watch two actors I'm very fond of; Paul Giamatti and Sally Hawkins.
All Is Bright (or Almost Christmas, the original title for which it seems to be known here in the UK) is a somewhat underwhelming and uneven, all too traditional ie formulaic redemptive tale for Christmas which sees newly released con Paul Giamatti return to Quebec to find his wife now living with his former partner in crime (Paul Rudd) and, worse, his wife has told their infant daughter that he is dead.
Desperate to earn some relatively honest, straight money in time for the holidays, Giamatti pushes himself into Rudd's business venture of selling Christmas trees across the border into the US and New York City.
The film is not without some ragged 'on your arse' blue collar charm which is refreshingly honest in its depiction of the hardships and unfair expectations faced by the working classes in this economic downturn. It occasionally conjures to mind the kind of sardonic urban landscape and stories Hollywood didn't shy away from in the 1970s or, for viewers in the UK, a kind of Alan Bleasdale or Clement and La Frenais scripted Christmas TV movie - if you could ever imagine such a thing! - and it is helped immeasurably by strong performances from Giamatti in particular, as well as Rudd and also Britain's own Sally Hawkins who is perhaps most famous for her excellent central role in Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky and in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine. Hawkins' role isn't especially original - a hard drinking straight talking Russian immigrant - and as such it doesn't require her to tap into her extraordinary talent all that much, but she cannot help herself and one scene near the end, involving her playing the piano, notably raises the bar.
A few more laughs in the often bleak mix would have saved it from becoming the sluggish affair it often is and its fair to say that the lugubrious tone makes this is a sombre Christmas film for adults more than kids or family.
But it was worth a watch I guess and passed the time. And let's face it, how many films partially set in French Canada do you see every day?