A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Angels in the Snow is intended as a heartwarming Christmas story of redemption and family healing. Important messages about what truly matters in life, about generosity and sharing, and about how precious life is, are delivered without restraint. Though five kids, ranging in age from 8 through teens, are primary characters, mature themes dominate the events. In the central story, the marriage of Charles and Judith Montgomery is badly damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Grief has been allowed to fester, untended and unresolved. Young brother-sister relationships have deteriorated. The introduction of a second family, the Tuckers, serves to change the trajectory of the fragile Montgomery household. Along the way, some twists and a violent winter storm wreak havoc in the beautiful but isolated mountain setting. (Spoiler alert: those who created this story seem to have forgotten one significant human value: How much is a happy ending worth if it comes as a result of someone else's concurrent tragedy?). Okay for mature tweens and up, with strong reservations about the resolution.
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What's the story?
As youngest child Emily (Jaeda Lily Miller) narrates, it's clear that the Montgomery family is in a most fragile place as ANGELS IN THE SNOW opens. Promising his family a wonderful Christmas holiday in a magnificent mountain log cabin, Charles (Chris Potter) can't seem to leave his business worries behind. He's built the house for his wife and three kids, but he's isolated and joyless as they arrive together. Judith (Kristy Swanson) would give anything and everything to have the man she married back, but her pleas fall on deaf ears. The three Montgomery children reflect the tension around them; they're on the road to joylessness themselves. As a fierce snowstorm rages outside, the family bickers their way through the first day of vacation. When they're all awakened by a loud pounding on the door late that night, they are surprised to find another family seeking refuge from the storm. As the Tuckers (Colin Lawrence and Catherine Lough Haggquist) explain, their van went off the road, the roads are impassable, and they need help. Judith and Charles respond immediately. Meeting Joe, Amy, and their two teen children, the Montgomerys are the most gracious of hosts. And so begins a surprising Christmas holiday of sharing, exploration, and friendship. With the wholesome, positive Tuckers in their home, the Montgomerys can't help but confront the truth about their own failing family unit, and begin to make the necessary repairs.
Is it any good?
Very predictable until it isn't, this earnest Christmas drama has solid (but familiar) messages, a seamless ethnic diversity, but loses its emotional heart with an ending that lands with a thud. Angels in the Snow, based on a book by Rexanne Becnel, first aired on TV, later released on DVD and streaming sites, has a bright cast of able actors and has been competently executed. From the opening, it's easy to see where the movie will take us, and we settle in for a pleasant ride, knowing that the journey, though expected, can be original and worth the time. And we do get to the ending we foresaw, but (Spoiler alert) what an awful price we pay. Too bad, because with only a slight adjustment relative to timing, the whole endeavor could have been saved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the premise of Angels in the Snow. Why do you think there are so many stories about parents who don't pay enough attention to their kids? Is it a situation you've seen in your own family, friends, or community? How much do you think technology has impacted the problem?
The house, with its carefully chosen contents, could be considered a "character" in the story. Notice how the filmmakers paid attention to every detail. The house meant very different things to the players. What did the house symbolize for Charles? For Judith? For the Tuckers?
Emily seemed to be the only one of the Montgomery children who could verbalize her sadness. Why do so many kids, like Jennifer and Alexander, act out in unproductive ways? What are some ways that kids might be able to communicate their feelings and help resolve family problems?
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