by Cornelia Laing, guest columnist
There are many great Christmas movies: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “Home Alone,” “Gremlins,” but the greatest Christmas film is in fact Todd Haynes’ “Carol.”
I think what contributes to what anyone thinks is the greatest Christmas movie is our own connection to the films. I vividly remember watching “Home Alone” growing up. My mum and I watch “White Christmas” every Christmas Eve. For the past five years, every holiday season we go to the Drafthouse’s showing of “Die Hard,” which includes flames at the front of the theater when an explosion happens.
With “Carol,” I remember seeing it in a small theater at River Oaks on Dec. 27, 2015. I remember it being two days after Christmas as we wanted to see “The Hateful Eight” on Christmas, and the day after Christmas, traffic was too hectic.
The lights were all still up around the neighborhood when we went to the theater. The feeling of Christmas is what I entered the theater with and still connect to the film; this feeling was cemented by its emotional energy.
When thinking about what the best Christmas movie is, a lot of different types of Christmas films come to mind. What is defined as a Christmas movie has evolved from films that are set on Christmas to those set simply around the holiday season and films where Tim Allen kills Santa.
The film follows a young woman, Therese Belivet, as she works at a department store during the holiday season in the early 1950s. The film, based on the Patricia Highsmith novel “The Price of Salt,” focuses on Therese as she begins to discover her sexuality through a relationship she has with an older woman, Carol Aird.
Setting the film during Christmas is not the only aspect that contributes to making this a great Christmas film. It goes beyond Christmastime as a setting and focuses on the atmosphere and feeling of the holiday season.
The first time Therese and Carol meet, the standout moment is when Carol compliments Therese’s hat. “I like the hat,” directed towards Therese’s red Santa hat. When they embark out to the country to Carol’s house, they stop for a Christmas tree. As Carol purchases a tree and snow descends, Therese starts to take pictures of Carol. The winter air and female gaze infuse each other with a romantic and warm emotional feeling.
The music throughout the film is melancholic and deep with the more up-beat sounds coming from Christmas music such as Dean Martin’s “Silver Bells.” The song plays as the pair head out on a cross-country road trip that will result in both the climax and consequences of their relationship.
The wintery air and holiday atmosphere are embedded in the film; this happens through notes of the holiday spirit and how mood is contrasted through music and cinematography. The setting and iconography of Christmas is important, but films that make an impact are able to say more.
“Love Actually” commented on the importance of relationships and love. “National Lampoon: Christmas Vacation” managed to highlight the importance of family. “Die Hard” just happens to be really awesome. “Carol” is a perfect Christmas movie because it elevates the emotional highs of the holiday season with the melancholy that can come over you during and after.
I think “Carol” is the best Christmas film because it manages to combine the feeling and warmth of Christmas movies while also telling its own narrative. It may not be a feel good film, but it does end on an optimistic note.
The emotions manage to sway from sadness to happiness to optimism to melancholy. It brings out the clashing nature of the holidays but never forgets the warmth and love that make Christmas and the holiday season a magical time.
Arts & Entertainment Contributor | Class of 2019 | Major: Communication