2004 / Director. Chaz Palmintari.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
NOEL is a film that embodies the Christmas spirit without tapping into religious context or long-held traditions. Instead its story is filled with human characters whose lives connect through a series of events on Christmas eve. It's a story about loneliness, forgiveness and hope. Susan Sarandon leads an ensemble cast which includes Paul Walker, Alan Arkin, Penelope Cruz and Robin Williams. Each character has their own personal troubles, which effect the people around them. Most of them are confronted by personal demons while others have lost all faith. It is a sombre and depressing film in many regards and yet its message of love and goodwill towards others resonates strong. The film was directed by Chaz Palmintari and it is a surprising turn for him. It is not the type of film one would expect him to direct but it is clearly an impassioned effort nonetheless. I found it to be refreshing to watch a Christmas film that steers clear of being overly sentimental and doesn't hold back from being solemn. Of course it has its moments of fluffiness but they've never gratuitous. Sarandon is wonderful in the lead but Williams and Arkin are also heartbreaking in their earnestness. NOEL never really resonated upon its release. It went direct to home entertainment in most territories and few people know it exists. If you're looking for a heartfelt and sincere Christmas film with a strong emotional core then look no further. Its far from being a perfect film but it is definitely an unexpected one.