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Faith, Media & Culture

Faith, Media & Culture

Movie review: “The Christmas Candle” shines bright

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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In the tradition of A Christmas Carolcomes this film adaptation of Pastor Max Lucado‘s bestselling book The Christmas Candle opening in over 400 theaters this weekend.

Synopsis (from the film’s website): Deep in the heart of the English countryside lies the enchanting village of Gladbury. Legend has it every 25 years an angel visits the village candlemaker and touches a single candle. Whoever lights this candle receives a miracle on Christmas Eve. But in 1890, at the dawn of the electric age, this centuries old legend may come to an end.

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When David Richmond (Hans Matheson), a progressive young minister, arrives in Gladbury, the villagers discover a new formula for miracles: good deeds and acts of kindness. While David’s quest to modernize Gladbury sets him at odds with the old world candlemaker, he finds an unlikely ally in the lovely skeptic, Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks). Now, the fiery candlemaker must fight to preserve the legacy of the Christmas Candle. But when the candle goes missing, the miraculous and human collide in the most astonishing Christmas the village of Gladbury has ever seen.

Review: There’s no doubt Christmas stories always seems a bit more Christmasy when presented with British accents — particularly when their period pieces set in quaint olde villages like Gladbury. So, right off the bat, The Christmas Candle warmed my heart with memories of Christmases past. Better still, the film actually delivers is traditional story with a rather enlightened sensibility.

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I like, for instance, the relationship between the idealistic-but-doubting Rev. Richmond (Hans Matheson of The Tudors) and the sassy-but-kind non-churchgoing Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks of Les Misérables). The film eschews the tendency of some faith-based movies (and this is, BTW, definitely a faith-based movie) to present ministers as all wise and those with more secular sensibilities as either villains or dysfunctional wretches in dire need of a staunch believer’s unerring wisdom. In fact, much of the emotional resonance of the story comes from watching these two good people with two distinct ways of looking at the world find their way to one another. And, yes, they both are changed along the way. And, while both Matheson and Barks give strong star turns, Barks glows particularly, aided perhaps by a pair of amazing dimples that just won’t quit.

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Another fun aspect of the film is the collection of quirky characters that populate Gladbury — a sort of late 19th Century English Mayberry where, for better or worse, everyone knows each other’s business. The familiar British cast include Leslie Manville (All or Nothing), Sylvester McCoy (The Hobbit), James Cosmo (Braveheart), Barbara Flynn (Elizabeth I), John Hannah (Sliding Doors, The Mummy) and, in her acting debut, singer Susan Boyle who rose to sudden fame via her memorably awe-inspiring performance of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables on Britain’s Got Talent. Her acting may not quite be on par with her superior singing but she does what’s required of her here quite competently and actually may have turned up a new hit for herself with her beautiful performance of film’s Miracle Hymn.

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The Christmas Candle is a likable movie that has something positive to say about having the faith to receive miracles into our own lives while, at the same time, reaching out to others be a part of a miracle in theirs. While, IMHO, some of the special effects may be a tad overdone, this is a film that both adults and kids can enjoy — in other words an old-fashioned (in the best sense of the word) family Christmas story. Recommended.   

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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