Film Review: The Christmas Candle (2013)

A film that truly is so bad it needs to be seen, featuring Susan Boyle’s acting debut

“Why in all of God’s green Earth?”

It’s a real mystery how films like this can attract some serious talent. The Christmas Candle might have splashed with getting Susan Boyle in her acting debut (more of that later) but it also stars the likes of Lesley Manville, Sylvester McCoy, Barbara Flynn and John Hannah and you have to wonder what on earth attracted them to this project.

The film is hokey Hallmark-esque nonsense, based on Max Lucado’s novel of the same name, but amped up to the nth degree. The good folk of the village of Gladbury (think a less edgy version of Cranford…) believe that every 25 years, an angel blesses one of the candles in the local shop, bringing a miracle to one of them but when a new vicar arrives with his own thoughts on the matter, it looks like Christmas might get ruined for everyone.

There’s something to be said for the different notions of faith espoused here – Rev Richmond wants people to believe in God rather than miracles, preaching kindness over blind hope, and there’s an inkling that both can co-exist easily. But bizarrely the film goes out of its way to tell us the only answer is an actual bona fide miracle, we’re all fucked without divine intervention.

Manville and McCoy work hard to bring some integrity to their roles as the candle-sellers, as does Barbara Flynn as the lady of the manor. Hans Matheson does a game job as the vicar, who has to make sweet eyes at Samantha Barks’ blandly conceived love interest. But the final act is monumental in its awfulness, delivering death by saccharine blast and sheer embarrassment for all concered.

The casting of Susan Boyle raises serious questions too. Clearly not comfortable on screen or particularly well-suited to the challenge of acting, her presence is largely edited in as she’s rarely present in group scenes. It’s a shockingly cynical move from the producers that ultimately makes a bad film even worse.

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