Jason Robards in The Christmas Wife (1988)

Lonely This Christmas

It's been 10 months since his wife died and retired architect John Tanner (Jason Robards) is expecting his son and daughter-in-law along with their kids to meet up at his cabin in the woods like they have always done. But John is left disappointed and feeling alone when his son suggests that this year John should go to their home in California which is why after seeing an advert for social arrangement he pays a social arranger to find him a woman to spend a purely social Christmas weekend with him. The woman in question is Iris (Julie Harris) a quiet, nervous woman who would rather not answer too many questions about her life. When they reach the cabin which John designed and built for his wife Iris' quietness and reluctance to talk about herself intrigue's John whilst John's clinching on to tradition makes Iris realise just how much he was in love with and misses his wife. But as they talk they soon start to get on.

"The Christmas Wife" is most definitely not your typical sort of Christmas movie, there is no sugar coating, no great comedy or over the top romance and there are no overly dressed Christmassy sets. But whilst "The Christmas Wife" is not going to be everyone's idea of a Christmas movie it has a very important story to tell, that of what Christmas is like for those getting on in years who have to face up to Christmas without a loved one. For some that will mean clinging on to the past, trying to keep traditions going whilst for others it is trying to battle the sense that life is over. But we also see how moments of closeness can lead to a sense of betrayal and it does a really nice and sensitive job of exploring this situation.

Julie Harris in The Christmas Wife (1988)

But then on top of this we have the mystery surrounding Iris and her reluctance to divulge too much about herself. To be honest you can pretty much predict what her secret is but it gives "The Christmas Wife" an extra angle and one which it definitely needs.

The key though to "The Christmas Wife" is simply down to the performances of Jason Robards and Julie Harris who fill the screen with charm and character. By the time the movie is over you feel like you have really got to know them both and to be honest have grown quite fond of them.

What this all boils down to is that "The Christmas Wife" is a different sort of Christmas movie and a surprisingly engaging one at that. Because it isn't a typical Christmas movie I have to say that it is a movie which I am sure you only begin to appreciate when the procession of typical Christmas movies no longer excites like it once did.

Tags: TV Christmas Movies, Christmas Movies