Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The House Without A Christmas Tree (1972)

Directed by Paul Bogart and written by Eleanor Perry, adapting the book by Gail Rock, The House Without A Christmas Tree is a TV special that never breaks into anything remotely cinematic but doesn't feel any the worse for it.

The essence of the tale is, of course, the house without a Christmas tree. It's 1946 and young Addie Mills (Lisa Lucas) lives with her widowed father (Jason Robards) and her grandmother (Mildred Natwick). With Christmas fast approaching she tries to persuade her father to have a Christmas tree in their home. Her father, for reasons that he tries to keep buried, is adamant that they won't have a tree, there's no need for one.

If you can imagine A Christmas Story mixed with a pinch of The Waltons mixed with a pinch of The Little House On The Prairie then you'll have an idea of the tone and treatment of the material here. It borders on the overly sweet but doesn't quite tip over the edge, in no small part thanks to a decent performance from young Lisa Lucas and the usual greatness from Jason Robards.

Kathryn Walker and Alexa Kenin also do well as, respectively, a teacher and Addie's best friend but this is all about the three members of the Mills family and whether or not they will ever join in again with the standard Christmas traditions.

The different moments shown onscreen may not be exactly like moments from the childhood of every different viewer, of course, but there's certainly a lot to recognise and empathise with in the universal struggle that always happens when children get old enough to start questioning their parents and fighting harder to get their own way. The character played by Robards is, in many ways, even more childish and stubborn than his daughter but that happens sometimes, especially when it concerns matters of the heart, and it's that behaviour that keeps the audience onside with Addie, even when she's being a bit more precocious than your average little girl.

The House Without A Christmas Tree is sweet and, no doubt, some will find it too sweet. I thought it was just right and I'll admit it - come the finale I was almost a little watery-eyed. Ahem . . . . . . almost.



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