Silent Night [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In 1818, Joseph Mohr was transferred to the small Austrian town of Oberndorf to be the assistant priest at the parish there.  He wants to make a difference wherever he goes, but he feels like the leaders of the Catholic Church don’t allow him to fully minister to the common people of the town.  The powerful people in the parish want everyone in the congregation to look nice on the outside, but Joseph has a heart for the poor and the outcast.  As he ministers to people against the will of his superiors, God inspires Joseph to write a Christmas song to encapsulate the season.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

When working with the Mainstay Productions team, the Covenant Communications team always showed a consistent commitment to high-quality productions, so this is also evident in Silent Night.  Besides the good video quality and camera work, this film demonstrates great attention to historical and cultural detail through realistic and accurate sets, locations, and props.  There is also a very effective cultural soundtrack; the only errors in this production pertain to some very poor lip-syncing and obvious overdubs when the the cast members are supposed to be singing, but this is the only real error in this production, which is otherwise quite good.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The story behind the Christmas carol Silent Night is a great true story to base a film on, and this one does a very good job of honestly portraying the two sides of the Catholic Church.  The other good thing is that Silent Night avoids falling into the trap of only basing the film on the idea behind it rather than developing characters through dialogue.  For the most part, the characters in this story are accessible and can be related to due to the dialogue that reveals their personalities and motivations.  However, there are quite a few slow parts throughout that detract from the movie’s dynamic value.  Since the film is mostly dialogue-based, it might have been better to include a few more engaging conversations and to develop the ancillary characters a bit better.  Even so, there are several very good scenes near the end that help us understand the characters better, even if the very end of the film (the predictable singing of the title song) falls a bit flat and is anti-climatic.  In the end, this is a great story model to follow and is one that can be built off of for future work.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

As a whole, this case has great authentic accents and cultural costuming, which keeps with the earlier themes of production quality in this film.  For the most part, line delivery and emotional delivery are fine, but some parts are too dramatic or seem a bit unnatural.  However, there is plenty of good here, and this rounds out a very well-done film.

Conclusion

On paper, Silent Night is a great film, but it just doesn’t have that final push it needed to make it a dynamic Hall of Fame film, which is unfortunate because it has plenty of good going for it.  Even still, this is a movie that many will enjoy because it is well-made and well-funded, and it has a great story to tell.  Thus, this is a good one to add to your holiday list.

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

The Letter Writer (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

A teenage delinquent, Maggie Fuller really has no direction in life but to mess around at school and try to market herself as an artist, along with her boyfriend.  But the day that she receives a mysterious letter from a stranger telling her how much potential she has as a good person was the day that changed her life forever.  Maggie’s new purpose is to discover the person who sent her the letter in order to ask him what he meant and why he sent it to her.  Little does she know that her journey will lead her life in a whole new direction.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The low production quality really derails this movie.  From the get go, it is evident that The Letter Writer is low budget.  The video is grainy and the camera work cuts corners.  The sound quality is okay, but the musical score is distracting.  On the bright side, outside scenes are filmed fairly well.  Yet issues with editing plague the film.  There are too many wasted scenes and take away from the overall point of the story.  Some scenes last too long and others make it unclear what is actually happening.  One particular element, an assisted living choir singing a hymn, occurs far too often throughout the movie.  In short, had The Letter Writer been afforded a better crew, this could have been a great film.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

The Letter Writer is based on true events, and its premise is very original and creative.  This sort of plot has never been attempted, which makes it even more disappointing.  The central message of the movie—giving encouraging letters to strangers—is its strongest point, yet it seems underemphasized, almost like the writers didn’t know what they had.  The characters are also understated, driven by vanilla dialogue.  Some philosophically provoking conversations occur, but there is also some odd theology included.  As previously mentioned, there are too many wasted scenes that accomplish nothing—these could have been replaced with sequences enhancing the characters and the important message of the film.  But alas, we are only left to wonder what could have been.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This cast definitely had potential that was not properly coached.  While the acting is not glaringly awful, it is too obviously amateurish to be awarded too many points.  Like other elements of the movie, line delivery and emotional expression are understated and do not leave a lasting impact.

Conclusion

The fact that The Letter Writer began as a short film even more demands that the movie should have been better.  Christian Vuissa was sitting on a gold mine, but he only scratched the surface.  In different hands and\or with a better surrounding team, this could have been Hall of Fame worthy.  In summary, The Letter Writer joins the ranks of Christian movies that desperately need to be recreated.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points