A moody, small-scale indie about a sad-sack Christmas tree salesman, Christmas, Again is at once a bit too cute and a welcome new subgenre of the dreaded holiday film.
Kentucker Audley stars as Noel, who spends the month of December living in a trailer at a Christmas tree stand in Brooklyn. Writer-director Charles Poekel fixes his camera tightly on Audley’s face and leaves the background blurry and unfocused, as if to suggest that it doesn’t really matter to Noel just where he is. He’s going through some vague heartbreak, which the film only hints at: Customers ask what happened to that nice girl who used to work at the tree stand, and a delivery to a pregnant woman and her husband leaves Noel in tears.
It might be hard not to roll your eyes at a drama about a mopey, mustachioed young man in plaid who works the graveyard shift at a Christmas tree stand and pops pills from an Advent calendar. When Noel rescues a pretty girl who’s passed out on a park bench one night, the film takes a turn for the predictable even as it maintains its somber, noncommittal tone.
But taking its cue from the title — ugh, Christmas again? — the film probably jibes better with most people’s lackluster experience of the holiday season than your typical Christmas movie, in which a bickering and dysfunctional family gathers for the annual reminder that family is family, no matter who gets kicked in the nuts or drops the turkey on the kitchen floor. Christmas, Again is a low hum of a downer, but maybe that’s appropriate. As one customer crisply tells Noel, “Christmas sucks.”
Written and directed by Charles Poekel
Opens December 3, MoMA