The Christmas Wife
Drama, Holiday | 73 Mins | Released: 1988
Director: David Hugh Jones
Starring: Jason Robards, Julie Harris, Don Francks, James Ekhouse, Patricia Hamilton, Debroah Grover, David Gardner
Our Rating: 7
In The Christmas Wife, an aging widower, afraid to spend the Christmas holiday alone, decides to hire himself a spouse to spend the vacation with him in his lovely mountain retreat and finds true romance in this heartwarming made-for-cable television drama that is based on a story by Helen Norris.
Reviews of The Christmas Wife
For those who have lived long and know loss intimately.
ac6457 from United States 21 January 2007
A muted film for the mature. Not a “pretty” film, nor is it sugar-coated with a “Hollywood” ending. Instead, to get the most out of this film, one must have lived, suffered, and know deep loss. Somehow, out of this accumulated life experience, the mature viewer comes away nodding at the film’s many truths. My wife and I nodded in agreement and understanding with the characters’ well-crafted lines, awkward silences, and moments of discovery. We loved “The Christmas Wife.” And yet we can understand those who did not enjoy this film. Perhaps they were looking to be entertained rather than to be challenged or reminded that life can be full of surprises, no matter how old one becomes. There was an air of genuine pathos as the film began, yet, at the end, one came away amused, stimulated, and wondering what the protagonist would encounter as he moved on in life after loss.
I saw this movie 2 days before Jason Robards’ death. He is such a fine actor, I will miss him. — The movie is about a widower who doesn’t want to spend Christmas alone. He contacts an agency to set him up with a woman who is also in need of company. The drama unfolds as the two spend the holiday together. Very touching, heartfelt movie.
A Wonderfully quite well acted film worth a ten
Of all the holidays in the year that is seriously celebrated in the United States and Canada, likely Christmas is the most family orientated, especially in Canada.Widows, widowers, students, those without any family, can have a pretty miserable December — especially if they’ve had closeness in the past.
Jason Robarts, always gritty, usually charming, sometimes humorous and dryly witty, plays a retired architect (John Tanner) who has lost his wife just 10 months ago. He wants to celebrate his traditional Christmas: i.e. by going up to a remote cabin with his son and later on his daughter in law and grandchildren children along with his deceased wife. This year, since there was only Robarts, his family tries to persuade him to come to them. He does not like the idea: he wants the cabin, snow and what he has always done.
He goes to a dating agency and explains what he wants: One thing is certain, he does not want sex. The agency owner agrees to set up a Christmas weekend with a woman – the only one available, he claims.
That is how, on Christmas Eve, after meeting her at a city transit turnaround, he takes Iris (Julie Harris) to his cabin. She sets the condition on the weekend that he must ask her no personal questions of her.
What follows is a series of scenes that documents John Tanner’s loneliness, his charm, and his real need to fill some hollowness left by the death of his wife. It makes Iris very uncomfortable. She is likely uncomfortable with the opulence, with his charm, with his total dedication to his memories of what he had. She senses the deep love she and his wife shared, and it makes her feel like a stranger in a house haunted by his memories.
She is also made very uncomfortable by the fact that until the end he has made no play for anything more than the weekend, he desperately wants what he had. Many people who lose a mate and had successful marriages seek what they had in someone else.
Her reasons for that latter discomfort and the explanation of why she will permit no personal questions constitute a spoiler, and so will not be pursued here.
This movie addresses a largely unaddressed problem at Christmas time. It addresses how lonely people can be. It addresses common decency. It looks at those who were so much in love over a long period of time that they were not afraid to share their qualities with someone else. It is not about redemption as in Scrooge. It is not about unique human value as in It’s a Wonderful Life. It is just about the best that ordinary humans have to offer one another.