A Tree for Christmas
When it comes to plants and trees I am not really a sentimental guy, I've never hugged a tree or cared much for smelling wild flowers yet unbelievably as I watched "The Christmas Tree" I found myself shedding a tear. I won't go into exactly why as that will spoil this Christmas movie from the mid 90s which stars Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris who form the most wonderful friendship. In truth whilst "The Christmas Tree" deserves to be seen at Christmas it is not what I would call a festive movie despite ending up at the Rockefeller Center in front of the big Christmas tree but is more of a touching drama about a young man with issues and a nun who helps him.
Within 9 months to go till he is expected to have a tree in place in front of the Rockefeller Center for Christmas, landscape architect Richard Reilly (Andrew McCarthy - Weekend at Bernie's) is trying to find one triumphant enough to be the show piece that everyone comes to see. That is when he spots the most glorious tree as he flies over a convent and goes down to see if he can persuade the nuns to let him have it. It is how he meets Sister Anthony (Julie Harris - One Christmas) for the first time who has cared for the tree since the age of 6. Despite refusing to let her tree go she becomes close friends with Richard, sharing her life story with him as she senses that something is missing in his life.
Let's start with this, we all know Sally Field as a talented, Oscar winning actress but she has also directed a few things and "The Christmas Tree" was her first go at directing a movie. You wouldn't know because this is a beautifully directed movie which does exactly what it sets out to do and that is to charm and mesmerise you with this simply beautiful story of a friendship between a Nun and a young man. Yes it is not flawless, I could moan about some editing and other things but why moan about a movie which does what it sets out to do, carrying you along with a simple musical accompaniment which aids the telling of various stories as Sister Anthony tells young Richard all about her life. You get a real sense that Sally was charmed by this story and because she believed in it the movie has the same affect on the audience.
As to the actual story well I have left various things out in the synopsis above and have no intention of mentioning them because "The Christmas Tree" is a movie which you should watch and experience for yourself, so you get the joy and the heartache first hand. What I will say is that I have watched many movies which basically revolve around a person telling their life story to someone younger and in doing so helping them to get to grips with their own life but few have done such a great job of charming me as this one did. Part of the reason why is that the stories which Sister Anthony tells Richard are not overly contrived, just simple tales of her life which have a purpose and they are so beautifully told that you are drawn in to every moment, amused and charmed by a scene such as when as a young girl Sister Anthony tried to run away but the tree stopped her. I know that it may sound quite daft but when you watch "The Christmas Tree" and experience that scene it will touch you in the same way it touches everyone and there are many touching scenes through out the movie.
What also helps "The Christmas Tree" are two perfect performances with Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris so good together. There is the wonderful sense of caring which grows between their characters so that as the story progresses you do believe that Richard cares deeply for Sister Anthony whilst she is concerned because of his loneliness. There is also some wonderful light comedy between them as Sister Anthony won't take no for an answer which adds to the general charm and that is without mentioning the equally good supporting performances none more so than from Trini Alvarado as Richard's loyal assistant Beth.
What this all boils down to is that "The Christmas Tree" is a surprising movie because in truth it deserves to be better known. It isn't the most original idea but everything about it comes together to deliver a touching drama which is firstly about friendship but secondly works just as well as a Christmas movie. And if you enjoyed "The Christmas Tree" the chances are you will like the movie Andrew McCarthy made 13 years later "The National Tree".