Deciphering the true meaning of Christmas is an age old challenge. Documentary-maker Ken Wardrop (His & Hers) tackles it through a largely sombre lens in his latest work. So This is Christmas takes the story of five people and illustrates how the shiny tinsel version isn’t the case for those who find it hard going for a myriad of personal reasons. We meet Jason who is grieving for his partner and raising two sons, Loretta who battles poverty whilst raising her children alone, Shane who has lost the scaffolding of his own parents, Annette who reflects, “loneliness is one thing but being invisible and forgotten is something else” and Mary who has an eating disorder and therefore encounters all the challenges of excess which the season brings.
These are tender and honest portrayals of lives lived outside the barrage of cheer and commercialised fabrications. Wardrop excels at capturing the platitudes of the season which people encounter but can clearly be triggering. However, besides a few moments of light relief and the wonderfully droll observations by Annette who acknowledges those to be an armour of protection from past hurt, So This is Christmas is downbeat. Light relief occasionally punctuates the narrative but sometimes this is in the form of a random edit such as an elderly lady dressed in a Santa costume coming down a chairlift.
Ultimately, this is a story of resilience in the face of adversity. There’s an endearing humility to all the people involved but it feels a beat was missed by not having a nod to the Ireland of now in terms of racial diversity or non-traditional unions. And maybe one upbeat story with a meaningful message may have been a welcome contrast.
Words: Michael McDermott
So This is Christmas
Director: Ken Wardrop
Release Date: November 17