* Prices may differ from that shown
*** FILM ONLY REVIEW ***
"A Christmas Visitor" is an American 'made-for-cable' film. I have only ever seen a region 1 DVD available for sale on sites such as www.amazon.co.uk, so you would obviously need to own a multi-region DVD player if you wanted to buy a copy of the DVD. That said however, I have seen it at least twice in the past, as it is often shown on Channel 4 or Channel 5 in the UK during the festive season.
* THE MOVIE *
William Devane and Meredith Baxter star as a married couple George and Carol, who are struggling to get into the festive mood and prepare for Christmas as their daughter is quite ill and possibly has cancer. This is obviously very concerning for the couple, and their upset and anxiety over their daughter's illness is unfortunately not the first tragic event that the couple have had to face.
We learn quite early on in the film that George and Carol's militarian son, John, died some years ago, whilst in combat in Operation Desert Storm. This has obviously left the couple distraught, and the more recent distress concerning their daughter's ill health has added to the couple's angst, resulting in the festive season feeling very bleak and hopeless as it approaches.
The arrival of a rather mysterious 'guest' called Matthew (played by Dean McDermott) soon puts a temporary hold on the couples' grief however. Matthew claims that he knew the couple's late son John, which is immediately met with suspicion by the deceased's family. Matthew seems to know a lot about John, and can rhyme off some of his most famous sayings, as well as list some scars and blemishes that were on his skin, so he must be telling the truth. Not everything may be exactly as it seems however.....
* MY OPINION *
I find this film is extremely cheesy, although that of course may just be my opinion (and I have to admit to being quite cynical) so others might not find it just as cringe-some as I do. That said however, the film is quite enjoyable and it IS fairly 'watchable' overall, I just find some specific scenes are over-the-top in terms of the acting and plot.
To explain this a little further, the storyline itself is enjoyable enough, and it carries throughout the film quite nicely until the end, where it is wrapped up neatly and nothing is left unexplained to the audience. There are several times however, where the plot felt a little predictable in places and there was perhaps a little TOO much sentiment and emotion literally 'crammed' into some scenes which gave them a rather sickly edge.... Or too sickly for my own tastes, anyway.
The film uses a couple of tried-and-tested tactics throughout its main storyline which are no doubt designed to invoke emotion and feeling in the viewing audience. Tactics such as the use of flashbacks to their son John's life are throughout the film to lay the groundwork for the tear-jerking scenes that follow later on in the movie. I say tear-jerking with my tongue resting firmly in my cheek however, as the main 'emotional' scenes in the movie left me rolling my eyes and shaking my head at the amount of cheese that I felt was dripping from them. That is not to say that other viewers wouldn't find the tear-jerker scenes much more touching and moving than I did, but as I said I am a cynic and am not easily moved when it comes to cheesy American made-for-TV movies I'm afraid.
In addition, I actually caught myself chuckling at one particular scene that is not supposed to be comedic. I don't want to give too much away, but at this point in the movie one of the main characters is looking at themselves in the mirror. The film-makers obviously decided that the viewing audience might need a little 'guidance' or a little help in being 'brought up to speed' with what this particular character is thinking at this point. How do they convey this to the audience? By having him recite a sort of 'monologue' in front of the mirror. I mean, who stands in front of the mirror stating "I must do this..." or "I think I will do the other.." or whatever it is!? It really made me chuckle to watch this character reciting his thoughts out loud. To himself.
I happened to mention this to my other half who was watching the movie with me, and made a comment to him about how unbelievable and cheesy it was. My other half retorted that the film wasn't MEANT to be believable, and proceeded to rhyme off some of the other (rather ludicrous) things that occur during the film to prove his point. I had to agree with him wholeheartedly.
On the plus side, the acting in the film is not the worst I have ever seen and I thought that all of the actors did a reasonable job in their respective roles. As I mentioned earlier too, the storyline is fairly enjoyable and is not as 'shaky' as it might have been, which is not something that can be said of every Christmas movie I have ever come across and this in itself was a surprise to me. It's just a bit of a shame that the cheesy 'emotional' scenes are overly so, as it takes the shine off what would otherwise be a nice little festive film.
The film is fairly atmospheric and I thought it provided some festive cheer, although I have to admit to having watched films that have provided much more, and found it to be executed much more effectively than in this film.
In summary, I would recommend having this film on in the background if you had some wrapping of presents to undertake, or had a spare hour or so to kill in the run up to the festive season. It provided a so-so Christmas viewing experience for my other half and myself recently when we were spending the afternoon watching Christmas movies and wrapping our gifts. If, however, you are short of time and are looking for a film to provide copious amounts of festive cheer and leave you feeling completely Christmassy, then I would bypass this and choose something else altogether.
I can only award the film two stars as a result and think that there are much better Christmas films available to buy, or being shown on television in the run up to the festive season.
"A Christmas Visitor" is available to buy from www.amazon.co.uk from around £3 with postage charges, and as mentioned at the start of the review it only appears to be available in a Region 1 format. I have not watched the DVD and so cannot comment on any bonus features which may appear on the disc.