Few Christmas movies really embrace the shitty solemnity of the holidays.
Unlike a John Candy vehicle or candy cane phlegm like Bad Santa, Christmas movies lack the realness of actually shitty holiday. Not every holiday for every person is a good thing. Life still goes on despite the joy of Christmas. Shit still happens. People are still sad. Life happens, for better or worse.
White Reindeer embraces this, running straight into holiday problems in a way no other movie really does. The 2013 film follows a woman named Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) who is fairly successful in her suburban real estate practice as she and her weatherman husband (Nathan Williams) head into the holiday season with news that they’ll be moving to Hawaii for work. There’s a joy and festiveness to their relationship and attachment to the holiday…until Suzanne’s husband is brutally murdered as a result of a break in.
The movie then shifts from “Woman goes about her holidays, happily.” to “Very sad woman tries to fill her various voids with the holidays.” Nothing works in the driest, funniest ways possible. Suzanne works through her grief through sex, drugs, and as many holiday elements that are willing to violate her in the hopes that something will relieve her of her holiday trauma. The movie is very much in the moment—”Mumblecore.”—and doesn’t look forward or backward in terms of Suzanne’s relationship to Christmas. That’s why it works: it’s a slice of contemporary time, a holiday gone awry, that is hopefully solved by more holiday things.
But nothing works. Some holidays are shitty. The film is written and directed by Zach Clark and fully embraces what it means to have a sad, lonely Christmas. Yes, those holidays suck. However, there is an element of discovery associated with these bad holidays, a means to know more about yourself and to accept (and maybe embrace) the still silence that comes with Winter holidays gone wrong.
I wouldn’t go as far to say White Reindeer is anti-Christmas but it’s the type of film that represents the too serious, too real, too irresistible holiday party guest who is a delightful black cloud over a snowy day. Without saying they hate the holidays this year, they embody it. This person is a mess of bad news but, still, you want to engage to keep that which frightens you at a distance. You will have that Christmas and it will suck. They’re a reminder of that and that is what White Reindeer is all about.
You can stream White Reindeer on Hulu now.