Rising indie star Kentucker Audley finds himself working the night shift of a 24-hour Christmas tree lot in New York City in the drama Christmas, Again. Director Charles Poekel’s romance/art film hybrid is a welcome addition to the holiday movie genre, going against the Douglas Fir grain of your typical “Merry and Bright” expectations. Christmas, Again is methodical, nuanced, and a breath of fresh air in which nothing really happens, but is still a pleasure to watch.
Bundled in plaid and a 5 o’clock shadow, Audley plays the auspiciously named character, Noel, a newly single, twenty-something night shift worker whose daily routine consists of sleeping in a cramped trailer during the day and working at a makeshift tree lot at night. He is a man of few words but of conviction. Though a man of few words, he is a man of conviction with incredible patience despite having to make small talk with customers who often lack both common courtesy and people skills. Noel’s years as a tree salesman seem to have created a sense of apathy towards these customers so he doesn’t take offense to their attitudes.
An official Sundance Selection charmer, Christmas, Again is a carefully unfolding look at the holiday through the eyes of our reserved protagonist Noel.
It isn’t until one night when Noel spots an out-of-sorts and visibly drunk woman (Hannah Gross) sitting much too close to a homeless man, that his mundane routine changes. After retrieving her cell phone back from the homeless man, Noel carries her back to his trailer and cares for her, even gently cutting the gum out of her long brunette hair. After leaving the next morning without saying a word, she returns later that day and sheepishly introduces herself as Lydia, realizing in her drunken stupor that she had also lost her wallet and a shoe. This brief encounter is all it takes to bring Noel back to life, snapping him out of his monotonous rut. Lydia is authentic, genuine, and obviously beautiful. For a guy whose satisfaction came from helping other people get into the holiday spirit, Lydia may finally be his gift.
Christmas, Again has the unique ability to heighten the viewer’s senses; from the smell of the chlorine from the gymnasium pool to the pine needles falling from the trees, we are immediately transported to a cold winter’s night. Director Charles Poekel’s decision to shoot on 16mm film is also bold and smart as it gives the film a worn in, warm feeling with a timeless quality.
An official Sundance Selection charmer, Christmas, Again is a carefully unfolding look at the holiday through the eyes of our reserved protagonist Noel. Kentucker’s performance is another fantastic one, but personally, I’d like to see him in a role where he is the one to stir things up instead of just going along for the ride (See: Funny Bunny, The Sacrament) and I look forward to seeing a film that pushes his acting limits a bit more. In the midst of the inevitable holiday overdrive, Christmas, Again is a welcome slow burn of enjoyment and reflection on the nuances of the season.
Christmas, Again opens this Friday at the Laemmle NoHo 7 and on iTunes and select digital/ cable platforms.