Judge David Johnson's heart grew two sizes today.
Sometimes the greatest gift is a second chance.
David Wall—who looks exactly like a cross between Robert Redford and Owen Wilson—writes, directs, and stars in Noelle, this Dove Family-approved Christmas fable about a crotchety, cold-hearted priest who discovers the true meaning of something or other.
Father Jonathan Keene (Wall) is the Church's hatchet man, a priest who is dispatched to failing parishes to shut them down. For his latest assignment, Father Keene is sent to a small fishing village to nuke the parish of his old friend Symeon (Sean Patrick Brennan). What he finds is a hopelessly small and old congregation, an apathetic community, a priest who loves getting his drink on and stealing from the offering to pay for medical bills of his congregants and a beautiful woman (Kerry Wall) dealing with a terrible burden and facing an impossible choice. Unfortunately Father Keene is a gigantic a-hole, a cold-blooded, church-smiting egotist who is about a loving and shepherding as a strain of Ebola.
But despite all that, there's an outside shot that Father Keene will emerge from the 90-minute runtime a changed man, more confident of his place in the world and smacked with the realization that he has the capacity to love and accept forgiveness.
There you have it—a heart-warming little ditty that's kind of syrupy at times, but highly effective as a moving human drama that centers around the spiritual side of the holiday season. No, I meant Christmas season. Christmas season.
David Wall is very good as Father Keene, tapping into the cold detachment that's required by the character, yet still maintaining likability. It's not easy to pull off because Keene is such a hard-ass. Obviously, we, as the audience, know he's got something to hide, but Wall masks that vulnerability nicely—until it's time for the big reveal. And it's an emotional one, and Wall hits the right note again, and the result is a jarring, impacting sequence that automatically pays off Wall's performance choice. Kerry Wall is great as the woman who's so central to the plot and the town's array of quirky characters are all memorable. The only guy who seems to misfire is Sean Patrick Brennan—some times his line reading is solid, other times—not so much.
This being a Dove movie, it has very Christ-centric message to it, and the message, while powerful, may leave those uninterested in Christianity, er, uninterested. And it is a PG-rated, family-safe viewing experience, but the themes are quite adult—parents, be prepared for some conversations you may not be super-excited to have with little ones (here's a hint: this is a life issues film).
Noelle is a nice film, well-executed from top to bottom and an easy recommendation, if you're in the market for a wholesome, Godly little number.
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