Frankly, the only connection to Christmas in this week’s film is that it’s the closest thing you’ll get to a movie adaptation of “Same Old Lang Syne,” the only Christmas song bleak enough for me to enjoy. Chance meetings in grocery stores, lost love, and cringeworthy dancing abound. (Speaking of songs being made into movies…I swear “Sk8er Boi” was supposed to be a feature-length movie at some point. Just so you’re aware, Hollywood, I’d still watch that movie.)
Where to Watch:
The Uncondensed Version:
Both Amanda and Jim return to visit their small hometown for their own reasons—one is a more uplifting reason than the other’s. While running an errand to the grocery store, they bump into each other down the salad dressing aisle (not a euphemism).
Amanda is in town to visit her pregnant sister, while both seem to know Jim’s reasons for visiting but avoid stating explicitly what it is. The two are friendly but awkward, as they were apparently the couple in high school that everyone thought would live happily ever after. They are just about to go their separate ways when Jim asks her to get coffee and catch up.
Since high school, our couple’s paths have diverged completely—Jim works on houses, while Amanda is a wife and stepmother, running an animal shelter. Jim is very emotional, having just lost his mother and sorting through her house.
Since both of our leads are willing to linger, they decide to go around the world—meaning creating their own 6-pack of beer from around the world at the local convenience store. The owner recognizes them, so they lie about still being together, which earns them free beers! Not a bad gig, honestly.
As the beers start flowing, Amanda and Jim get real and move past the pleasant small talk. Amanda worries about Jim, who lost his job after snapping and beating up his uncle. He lives in Tucson but appears to be drifting in virtually every sense of the word. Meanwhile, Amanda is on antidepressants and dreads having to take care of her significantly older husband in a few short years.
Amanda and Jim make their way to his mother’s house, where they discover a treasure trove of romance novels, poor Jim’s high school wardrobe and diary, and some rather embarrassing tapes they recorded together. One tape imagines their 40th anniversary together, which they decide to jokingly reenact. This proves (1) as teenagers they had no concept of time (they’d be nearly 60 at the youngest, yet no talk of retirement. Maybe they knew even then the horrifyingly real possibility of never being able to afford retirement) and, (2) ice cream soup brings people together.
This is followed by embarrassing dancing and drinking in the bed of a pick-up truck. You know regretful choices are going to happen, and the two share a moment that unravels everything, turning a sweet day together somewhat sour. Details of their split finally emerge, and both express some of the bitterness they’ve held on to over the years. Can Amanda and Jim salvage this experience and keep a fond memory?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
This is a very quiet, reflective, “thinking” movie, if you like. The plot is scant, but the characters and dialogue carry the film.
I would say 4 based on enjoyment, but I had to knock off at least 1/2 of a star based on Jim’s reaction to something Amanda did 20 years ago. It’s completely about him and shows no emotional growth. That’s the nice thing about this film—it does allow both characters to revisit the past and grow up, moving on properly after bottling feelings about their relationship for so long. I think that’s a bit of a weakness too, as it does at times seem our characters haven’t matured emotionally beyond high school. But that’s true of most people, isn’t it (sort of joking/sort of not)?
Amanda’s brief but resonant discussion of depression is some of the film’s best dialogue…but I’ll be honest, the dialogue is virtually flawless. All of it is a high point here.
Maybe Jim’s reaction at the end will piss you off less than it did me because this really is a very moving, contemplative look at the past and seeking closure.