Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 40 min .
Our Advisories Violence -0; Language -0; Sex/Nudity –1.
Our star rating (1-5) 2.5
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.
“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”
Based on popular author Max Lucado’s 2006 novel, director John Stephenson’s faith-based film is a Hallmark Channel type movie that is enjoyable, but not of classic quality. The production values are good (with some so-so special effects), many of the beautifully lit scenes, filled with Victorian Era-costumed characters fit for a Christmas card. The film also boasts the screen debut of the sensational singer Susan Boyle, who might not yet be comfortable as an actress, but can she ever sing!
The drama revolves around the old legend in the rural village of Gladbury that once every 25 years an angel blesses one of the candles made during the Christmas season by Edward Haddington (Sylvester McCoy) and his wife Bea (Lesley Manville). The customer who buys it and prays earnestly receives a miracle. Enter the Rev. David Richmond (Hans Matheson), whom we first see manning a Salvation Army soup and bread line in London. Lady Camdon, who has admired his preaching, invites him to be the rector of her estate church at Gladbury, but he puts her off. He has lost not only his wife and child to an illness, but also his belief in the miraculous, while clinging to the church’s teachings about helping the poor.
Of course, he does come, soon finding himself in conflict with the parishioners’ belief in the legend of the Christmas Candle. Even worse from their perspective, the progressive pastor wants to do away with candles altogether by installing electric lights in the church. How untraditional! Of course, his plans end in disaster, with only fellow skeptic Emily Barstow (Samantha Barks), with whom he has had a “meet cute” run in, supporting him. Matters become more complicated when candle makers Edward and Bea count the batch of Christmas candles they have made and discover one is missing. There is also Emily’s sick father and a pregnant woman trapped in a carriage during snowstorm. Lots of things that require a miracle to resolve matters, including the deficient faith of the pastor.
The film will appeal to some Christians who have never doubted the miraculous, but to others, as well as to the secular public, this will be one more example of religious propaganda. The film (produced by former Sen. Rick Santorum’s EchoLight Studios) is obviously on the side of the villagers who suspect that progress is bad, and who, were they Americans would prefer to sing “Give Me That Old Time Religion” to “God of Grace, and God of Glory.” This is not to defend the deficient rationalistic faith of the pastor who has reduced Christianity to doing good deeds for the poor—it certainly is not only this—but merely to observe that this simplistic film will convince no one. Far better to send a skeptic to C.S. Lewis’s little book Miracles. Among the book’s intriguing passages we find the following:
“Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known. We have already seen that if you begin ruling out the supernatural you will perceive no miracles. We must now add that you will equally perceive no miracles until you believe that nature works according to regular laws. If you have not yet noticed that the sun always rises in the East you will see nothing miraculous about his rising one morning in the West.” (CS Lewis in Miracles, p. 75. For many more such observations on miracles click onto the book title. )
Nonetheless, for those concerned about “the real meaning of Christmas,” this film provides wholesome entertainment—if they can find it. With a small publicity budget, few theaters have picked up on it, so most potential viewers will have to rely on streaming video and DVDs.
The full review with discussion questions will be included in the January 2014 issue of Visual Parables, scheduled for posting early that month. To subscribe to the publication go to the Store. A year’s subscription will gain you access not just to this issue (which has far more features in it than just film reviews and guides), but also to issues as far back as Summer 2006.