Movie Review: “The Christmas Candle”

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If lush settings were plums and costumes were nuts we’d all have fruitcake for Christmas.
And we could enjoy it watching the lovely looking but dramatically flat and emotionally sterile “The Christmas Candle”, a pretty period piece of a holiday fable that lacks only the wit,decent story and better dialogue that might have made it a holiday classic.  
Filmed in Gloucestershire, it’s a fable about a village — Gladbury — that has held onto a tradition that says that every 25 years, the local candle maker makes one batch of candles which holds that one magical candle that an angel ensures will grant the owner his or her heart’s desire.
In a poor town where “the people are disheartened,” that’s a nice thing to cling to — a little hope that being given this candle and told to “light this and pray,” grandpa’s blindness will be cured, that missing goat or prodigal son will return by the end of Advent.
But that 200 year-old tradition is pooh-poohed by the new preacher, handsome Rev. Richmond, played by Hans Matheson, wearing the same haircut he sported on TV’s “Tess of the D’Urbevilles” and “The Tudors.” It’s 1890 and England is going electric. There’s no “magical, wish-granting angel,” he preaches. And the locals are appalled.
Rev. Richmond was recruited from the Salvation Army, so eventually he sees the need to at least replace the “miracle” with something else to cling to. As the townsfolk pass on their Christmas Candle wishes to the candle-making Haddingtons (Lesley Manville, Sylvester McCoy), Rev. Richmond reads those wishes and attempts to make them come true.
“Be the miracle,” he advises his flock. Fix that roof, visit that lonely old lady. And so they do.
But the Reverend is harboring his own secret sadness. And there’s a fellow skeptic, the lovely Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks of “Les Miserables”), who might be lured back to church by his good deeds. Can he help her sickly dad (John Hannah of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”)? Or Charlie, the little boy who cannot speak?
Even the caretakers of the church parsonage, played by John Cosmo and Susan Boyle — yes THAT Susan Boyle, of “Britain’s Got Talent” and viral video fame — could use a miracle. 
The performances — save for Boyle, a better singer than actress — are uniformly fine, if limited. 
There’s not a whit of mystery to the proceedings, and even moments with the potential for great charm only manage the tiniest drop of it. 
Director John Stephenson comes from the animation and special effects realm, so the angel effect and miracle candle effects are well conceived. And the entire production is burnished to the point of handsome. He had the makings here of a “Masterpiece Theatre” Christmas production.
But neither he nor the screenwriters are able to turn Max Lucado’s novel into anything more than pablum — best served to babies and the undiscriminating.  No fruitcake for us, this Christmas. 
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MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements . 
Cast: Hans Matheson, Samantha Barks, Lesley Manville, Susan Boyle
Credits: Directed by John Stephenson, written by Candace Lee and Eric Newman, based on the Max Lucado novel. An Echolight release.  
Running time: 1:40
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8 Responses to Movie Review: “The Christmas Candle”

  1. Grumpy In The Golden State says:

    What’ya want, perfection as y’all see it? I’ll see the film regardless what y’all say; I’m PAYING for my ticket, did you? Sheez!

  2. Too bad you didn’t see it through my eyes! I loved it! My daughter, son-in-law and I just saw The Christmas Candle three times in four days and we loved it. We recommend it to all who are looking for a very fine Christmas story of hope, caring and family.
    You said — “yes THAT Susan Boyle, of “Britain’s Got Talent” and viral video fame — could use a miracle” lousy and sarcastic comment and you had better go see it again! Susan Boyle is playing, a church warden’s wife and she was very convincing playing Eleanor Hopewell the church warden’s wife. She wasn’t flashy, she wasn’t suppose to be. She wasn’t loud, she wasn’t supposed to be, she was sweet, meek and mild and had a lovely silent smile at all times, sort of on the shy side, that she should be. Think about the church warden’s wife you know or read about. If she didn’t come across as the perfect church wife, I’ll say 10 Our Fathers. I think you were to eager to be critical of Susan’s first time acting ability before you even got to see her as Eleanor Hopewell. Go see it again!
    Susan’s beautiful voice is stunning singing “Miracle Hymn” in the movie. Really gets to you. In my eyes The Christmas Candle is a beautiful story the entire family can enjoy! It may not be your type of movie, but I bet there are many people who will come back to the theater to see this fine Christmas movie. Can you believe a beautiful movie came along with no guns, no nudity, no swearing, no fighting, no robberies, no torture and no killing people – and a few someones like me liked it. I even shed some tears when I watched it. It’s a very charming, beautiful movie that will be around for a very long time. Can’t wait to see it again. Go Susan Boyle!

    • Boyle’s inept voice-looping and odd -sounding singing voice (higher than the timbre she’s known for) made me wonder if she’d had a stroke. Or an on-set breakdown.
      Perhaps you should get out more.

  3. amywells says:

    I loved this movie and am taking many more friends to see it this weekend. It shared a message that there are miracles all around, miracles yet to be found. The movie shows how not to just do good deeds, but that you have to first believe. I believe in the Christmas Candle and already know that it will be a Classic played for years to come.

  4. Truth In Posting says:

    Just an FYI, the three previous commenters are all members of a Susan Boyle fan club; in addition, Ms. Wells is the aunt of Candace Lee, co-author of the script.

  5. The producer’s son was one of the writers of the screenplay; and you can tell. You have got to start with a good script. No amount of other values piled onto a movie project will overcome that deficiency. I don’t fault Susan Boyle; the people in charge should have been able to see what she could not do, and excused her from it. Please, future Christian Cinema providers, beg, buy, however you do it, obtain personnel who know how to write a screenplay, and LISTEN to them.

    • They had a good reason to make the film, the wherewithal to mount it with period-perfect care and cast it reasonably well. But nobody said “This script needs something” — call it realism, pathos or edge. Make better faith-based films and more people will come, and more of the movies get made.

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