Tate's Modern Son
Christmas is coming and it is an important time of the year for Christmas tree farmer Christy Byrne (Tate Donovan) as he takes the years crop to the city to sell on the street corner. But whilst Christy loves the harvesting, transporting and selling of his trees with his daughter Bridget (Courtney Jines) his son Danny (Michael Mitchell) is less happy and wants to pursue a career in photography. It is in New York that each year Christy tries to persuade museum employee Catherine O'Mara (Anne Heche) to buy a tree but ever since her husband died she hasn't celebrated it. Following yet another argument with his dad Danny runs away and Christy along with Bridget are forced to return home leaving finding Danny up to Rip (Max Martini), a police officer who Christy befriended. Meanwhile with the help of Catherine Danny has been making ends meet through his photography, with her secretly selling them to the press for him. But when Christmas comes around again Christy and Bridget return to the city matters become complicated when Christy and Catherine become close.
Christmas trees and decorations do not a Christmas movie make, but they do make you think you are watching a Christmas movie. That is the issue which presents itself with "Silver Bells" the festively titled romantic drama which is set at Christmas time in New York. It even features scenes of Christmas tree farming and a truly beautiful orchestral version of the song "Silver Bells" yet in truth it is a stereotypical romance where two people fall for each other but one has a secret. As such right off the bat don't watch "Silver Bells" if you are seeking some Christmas magic as you may end up disappointed even though it is a very enjoyable movie.
The thing about "Silver Bells" is that it has a lot going on; there is the initial set up of Danny and Christy not seeing eye to eye leading to a fight on the streets of the city and Danny running away. At the same time we have what feels like a more typical set up of both Christy and Catherine being widows with Catherine having given up celebrating Christmas. But then we have things move forwards a year and we have Catherine secretly helping Danny and then her falling for Christy which means issues over her secret. But it is not over yet and before the movie is over there is more elaborate stuff going on and certainly more dramatic stuff. And rather weirdly despite not being a real Christmas movie and a little convoluted as well as predictable it is still entertaining and delivers a genuinely charming movie.
Now there is the acting and Anne Heche and Tate Donovan both have the right look, in those more Christmassy scenes such as an ice skating one they look good together in some typical Christmas outfits. Yet rather strangely I didn't feel any real chemistry between them and whilst the movie side of my brain expected the relationship the human side said it doesn't work.
What this all boils down to is that "Silver Bells" is many things; it is predictable, it is cliche, it is enjoyable and a pleasant distraction. Unfortunately whilst you would throw it in with Christmas movies because of its setting and the Christmas trees it isn't a proper Christmas movie.