Hot Docs Review: So This Is Christmas (Ken Wardrop, 2023)

Christmas. It’s merry. It’s jolly. It’s happy. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? At least that’s what the song says.

Of course, we know this can’t be the case for everyone and in So This Is Christmas, director Ken Wardrop reminds us that Christmas is not always the happiest time of the year for some, but rather a sad reminder of what they may be lacking in their lives.

The film follows several residents of a small Irish town, each of whom is dealing with something that makes the holiday season just a bit harder for them, be it economic hardship, the loss of a loved one, loneliness, or just an uncertainty about which direction they’re headed in life. The sadness in each of their stories is contrasted with random scenes of a more stereotypically festive nature, which really helps to illustrate the divide between what each of them is going through and the ever-present holiday cheer with which they’re bombarded every time they leave the house.

Among those profiled in So This Is Christmas, the most affecting stories come from a widower trying to keep it together and stay strong for his sons as they face their first Christmas without their mother and from an older woman dealing with loneliness and isolation during the holiday season. And though the latter, a self-proclaimed cynic, states that she’s gotten used to the solitude, we get a heartbreaking peek into how it still has an effect on her when she says to the camera, “Loneliness is one thing, but being invisible and forgotten is something else.”

Still, while it can all get a bit downbeat at times, it’s not entirely bleak. The film does offer up some glimmers of hope with each of its subjects working with the cards they’ve been dealt and seemingly making an effort to look on the bright side as much as possible. And that in itself suggests that at least some of that stereotypical Christmas cheer has made its way into their lives after all.

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs