Father Jonathan Keene, a cold, impatient Catholic priest, arrives in a tiny fishing village the week before Christmas to do what he does best: shut down a dying parish. But things take an unexpected turn as he becomes entangled in the various lives of the village’s eccentric characters, including their beautiful librarian, the childlike priest he is displacing, and the magical experience of Mrs. Worthington’s legendary Christmas Party, where everyone is welcome and anything is possible.
The ending alone makes this film worth viewing. The characters in this story are very human and this film reveals the characters, flaws and all. Father John Keene is a priest who is sent to possibly shut down the parish of one of his fellow priests and friends, Father Simeon Joyce. Despite his indulgence in alcohol and his weary outlook on life, Father Simeon genuinely cares for his flock. On the other hand, Father Keene seems to be pushing all the right buttons which is required of him as an overseer, but his heart is not in the priesthood. He carries a secret which has been haunting him for some time. In the course of the film, he finds a woman who could be a soul mate and to whom he spills his secret, a secret which has caused him great pain. The film does have several funny moments including Father Keene telling a disgruntled actor playing an angel in the church play that, if he doesn’t have a better idea, to “get back up on the ladder and start rejoicing!”
It should be noted that there is some mild language in the film, and alcohol is consumed by both priests. Also, for those not of the Catholic faith, we note that Father Keene says that he hopes those who are not Catholic will find their way to “the one true church,” which has the potential to offend people not of the Catholic persuasion. However, it should be pointed out that Father Keene at this point seems genuinely loyal to his church and beliefs.
The film does have some mature subject matter, including the story of an unwed mother, and a fight. A lady who says she doesn’t believe in the virgin birth receives quite a tongue lashing from Father Keene. This story has a strong redemptive theme at film’s end and its emphasis on forgiveness is praiseworthy. As already stated, the ending is an emotional and compelling conclusion. We wish to note that this film won a Jury Award for best director and was runner-up for Best American Film at an awards ceremony in Florida. The direction of this film is one of its strengths.