A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Max Lucado's The Christmas Candle tells a story with heart about a 19th-century English reverend who, due to the death of his wife and child, has lost his belief in the possibility of miracles. The analogy between religious faith and magical beliefs is made here, as a village grapples with its centuries-old tradition of believing in the miraculous powers of an angel-touched magical candle. A young unwed mother is abandoned by the man who made her pregnant. A man with heart trouble dies after trying to put out a fire. Another lies gravely ill but recovers.
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What's the story?
Electric lighting and engine-powered automobiles are heralding a modern era in the small English village of Gladbury, but old traditions, such as belief in the title's CHRISTMAS CANDLE, endure. Enter David Richmond (Hans Matheson), a young, modern reverend once known for his faith-inspiring sermons and now steeped in doubt springing from the death of his young wife and child. David remains a man dedicated to serving those in need, but his unsettled faith makes him reluctant to leave his charitable work in London and take to a pulpit offered by Gladbury. When he takes the position, he tries to underplay the candle-miracle story by rallying the villagers into doing good works, but the candle story persists. At the same time, the Haddingtons (Lesley Manville and Sylvester McCoy), proprietors of the old candle shop where the miracle first occurred, await the arrival of the angel that bestows powers on one special candle every 25 years. Usually a villager is selected to receive the candle and instructed to "light it and pray" for the miracle they need. But this time, after the angel anoints the chosen candle, 30 candles topple over, making it impossible to know which of them holds the miraculous powers. The Haddingtons try to hide the problem by giving all 30 away and telling each recipient to keep the candle secret. Eventually the fraud is exposed, but the duped recipients all report wishes come true, which throws David into a deeper funk.
Is it any good?
This movie offers a well-told story that will hit home for anyone who has ever experienced a crisis of faith, either religious or secular. Performances by Hans Matheson, Sylvester McCoy, Lesley Manville, Samantha Barks, and even the gifted singer Susan Boyle in a small but sweet role, are all charming and engaging. Prepare for hokey special effects. During the big miracle, an angel shimmers with crude light as dots of superimposed illumination hover like fake snowflakes in the air. But otherwise the settings and direction give the period piece a vitality and believability that anchors a story about magic in its own comforting reality. The Christmas Candle does a good job at appreciating the beauty of spiritual rituals but also offers the view that good deeds performed by humans are even better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how religious belief is different from belief in magic. How does Max Lucado's The Christmas Candle distinguish between the two? Why do you think the reverend is so concerned with making the distinction?
What do you think it means to lose one's faith? What other movies have this theme?
Do you think the reverend seems to renew his faith in people? What in the movie suggests that?
What's your favorite Christmas movie? Why?
- In theaters: November 15, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: November 4, 2014
- Cast: Hans Matheson, Lesley Manville, Samantha Barks
- Director: John Stephenson
- Studio: EchoLight Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: for mild thematic elements
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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