What I’m Watching: Noel

I saved this one for closer to the holiday because I have higher hopes for it. Good director, good cast (Robin Williams even!) There has got to be a reason I haven’t heard of it before now.

A contemporary romantic drama borrowing inspiration from It’s a Wonderful Life, this thought-provoking holiday film explores the lives of five strangers as they intersect at a crossroads of forgiveness and redemption. In his directorial debut, Chazz Palminteri lends a delicate hand to allow his talent-laden cast creative latitude to portray a handful of odd bedfellows who share little in common but loneliness on Christmas Eve. Susan Sarandon is remarkable as Rose Harrison, a divorced book editor who spends the holidays at a nursing home with her mother deep in the clutches of Alzheimer’s. Although Rose’s own story bleeds pathos, she shows genuine compassion toward others—whether it’s the abandoned, mysterious patient across the hall, or the desperate fiancée, Nina (Penélope Cruz) who broke her engagement to her beloved Mike (Paul Walker) because of his suffocating jealousy. In separate subplots soon to collide, a strange bartender (Alan Arkin) divulges how his past was forever altered by someone he thinks is Mike, while another Alzheimer’s visitor, Charlie Boyd (Robin Williams, uncredited) helps Rose accept the possibility of miracles in an uplifting climatic twist. Though some of the storylines inch toward the improbable, the film manages to veer just to the right of maudlin. Instead, it arrives as a heartwarming, life-affirming tale that tugs at the heartstrings (with a haunting musical score by the famed Alan Menken). Grab some ‘nog and a hanky. (Rated PG for sensuality, language, and some intense thematic material) –Lynn Gibson

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