A Christmas Visitor (2002)
Christmas Time, a Time of Healing
"A Christmas Visitor" wants to be a heart warming Christmas movie, an almost magical tale which lifts the spirits and makes you feel good. And for the most it succeeds with some beautifully crafted scenes, some pleasant dialogue and some surprisingly good performances. I say surprisingly good performances because "A Christmas Visitor" is a made for TV Christmas movie which is distributed by Hallmark and as such is heavy on sentimentality but the good performances from William Devane, Meredith Baxter, Dean McDermott and in particular Reagan Pasternak shine through. As such "A Christmas Visitor" is an entertaining movie full of what is basically a lot of niceness.
For the past 11 years the Boyajian's have not bothered to celebrate Christmas following the death of their son whilst on duty in the Gulf war. But this year is different, whilst George Boyajian (William Devane - Hollow Man) is attending to the war memorial he gets a feeling something special is going to happen and the family should once again celebrate Christmas, especially as his daughter Jean (Reagan Pasternak - Before You Say 'I Do') has the shadow of breast cancer looming over her. Whilst out doing errands in preparation for Christmas George meets Matthew (Dean McDermott) a hitch hiker and welcomes him to spend Christmas Eve with his family where his presence seems to help the healing process in every single one of the family.
When "A Christmas Visitor" started and I watched George driving down the street with everyone saying hello I had a nasty feeling this was going to be a variation on "It's a Wonderful Life". Thankfully it isn't, it is the story of a family which for many years have not celebrated Christmas because of the death of their son whilst at war but finally seem ready to move past the prolonged grieving. The getting past the grieving comes in the form of a bit of magic as George gets a feeling that this year something special is going to happen and as such "A Christmas Visitor" has a heavy amount of fantasy especially when he picks up Matthew the hitch hiker. It really doesn't take much to work out what is going on as Matthew is welcomed in to the Boyajian's family home and seems to bring peace to those with broken hearts, but it is nice, it is pleasant and all very innocent.
What does feel a little strange is the storyline surrounding George's daughter Jean who has breast cancer. It's a good storyline and the development of it works well but then it has such a small part to play in the context of the bigger picture yet seems to be central during the build up. Even so Reagan Pasternak who plays Jean does a solid job of showing the distress of having cancer without making it morose and ruining the overall feeling of niceness.
Talking of Reagan Pasternak it has to be said that she is absolutely adorable and it's easy to fall in love with both her and her character Jean with her vulnerability. But William Devane and Meredith Baxter deliver equally good performances as her parents George and Carol finding the right level of grieving when it comes to getting past the death of their son. And then there is Dean McDermott who unfortunately is a bit of a cliche as Matthew, tall, handsome with an air of serenity about him but McDermott makes his character Matthew nice and a bit of nice doesn't do anyone any harm.
The thing is "A Christmas Visitor" is a very pleasant movie; there is nothing in the slightest bit offensive about it as it goes about delivering a heart warming tale. It is heavy on the sweetness and occasionally edges a little too close to being corny and overly saccharine. But it works for those who just want to watch something innocent, something nice and uplifting.
What this all boils down to is that "A Christmas Visitor" is a charming movie, a sweet Christmas tale which delivers warmth and magic. It's not by any stretch of the imagination a great movie and the occasional heavy handed sprinkling of sweetness ends up cheapening the overall feeling. But with good performances especially from Reagan Pasternak and William Devane it achieves what it sets out to do and that is entertain whilst delivering a heart warming, innocent story.
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