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The Independent Critic

Elizabeth Guest, AJ Meier, Vin Vescio, Christine Weatherup, Zach Kanner, Dave Child, Nalini Sharma
Christine Weatherup
99 Mins.
Giant Pictures

 "See You Next Christmas" Wins Humor & Humanity Prize at Heartland 

Before I begin my review of writer/director Christine Weatherup's See You Next Christmas, I have a confession. 

I hate Christmas. 

No, really. 

Having grown up in a home that didn't celebrate Christmas, I never really acquired those warm holiday memories as a child that might somehow guide me toward being something other than a Grinch as an adult. 

Here's the thing. I love the idea of Christmas. 

Oh, and I absolutely love See You Next Christmas. 

Winner of the Humor & Humanity Award at the 30th Anniversary Heartland International Film Festival in Indianapolis, See You Next Christmas is, indeed, a marvelous tapestry of humor and humanity set amidst an annual gathering called "Clarkmas" hosted by Annie (Christine Weatherup) and Tom Clark (Vin Vescio) for their hilarious yet lovable group of ragtag friends and holiday loners including perpetual singles Natalie (Elizabeth Guest) and Logan (AJ Meier) among several others.

If I were to imagine a world where I might embrace the holiday spirit, I'd imagine it looking an awful lot like this completely delightful holiday rom-com meets friend-com meets family-com meets, well, Christmas is better with friends kind of film.

I also had to laugh a bit when I realized that See You Next Christmas is basically Neil Simon's Same Time, Next Year for the holidays. 

Okay, maybe I'm stretching it but it still made me laugh. 

See You Next Christmas soars on the strength of its truly fine ensemble cast. It's clear that they're completely in sync with Weatherup's vision for the film and they all embrace the film's heart and humor completely. It's been quite a while since I've both laughed and cried in a motion picture yet that's exactly what happened in See You Next Christmas. 

See You Next Christmas kicks off at the first gathering of "Clarkmas," a destined to be festive gathering where Annie and Tom are new into their marriage, Natalie arrives early, and we fall quickly in love with this motley crew and their merry mayhem. Natalie and Logan meet with more than a little bit of a spark, however, it becomes obvious quickly that our two opposites aren't quite ready to attract just yet. 

The film then takes place over the course of several years as lives change, families grow, singles become couples and couples become singles, and both Natalie and Logan play dodgeball with their hearts. Every gathering is endearing in its own special way, though it's our growing affection for these friends that really allows See You Next Christmas to become something special. 

Elizabeth Guest is such a gem here as Annie that I found myself rushing over to IMDB to discover her other work, though such a search also delightfully let me know that she's the niece of Christopher Guest and Jamie Lee Curtis. Ah, the talent in this family runs wild. Guest is absolutely sublime in weaving together Natalie's heart and humor, sensuality and vulnerability. It's a trickier role than one might expect and Guest absolutely nails it. 

AJ Meier, on the flip side, gets to play more with the humor and he's definitely up to the task as Logan. Meier's Logan is caught somewhere between typical male bravado and being the kind of guy you know is a lot more substantial underneath the facade. Over the course of the film's 99 minutes, you can't help but fall completely mad for Logan even when he's occasionally being a bit of a jerk. 

If there's an ever so slight snag in See You Next Christmas, it's the simple fact that Christine Weatherup and Vin Vescio are so utterly amazing and engaging as Annie and Tom. They're the friends everyone should have and every scene they're in completely lights up the screen. They're funny and sweet, romantic and weird and so much more. I won't quite say they steal every scene they're in, though I will say I sure wouldn't mind a film focused solely on Annie and Tom. 

The supporting cast is equally inspired from Nalini Sharma's destined to be a baker Nina to Dave Child's Cliff, the latter tasked with providing a good amount of the film's heart-shaped comedy. The truth is there's not a weak link in this ensemble cast and the film lights up more and more as families grow and even children enter the picture. 

I mean, seriously. These kids are adorable. 

Andrew Scott Bell's original music for the film is absolute perfection while production design by Cole Holland and Alexis Pinal is warm and comfortable and wraps around Dana Olinsky's wonderful costuming quite nicely. 

See You Next Christmas is one of the 30th Anniversary Heartland International Film Festival's true indie gems, a film with an abundance of heart and humor and a film that left me feeling amazing long after the closing credits rolled. Picked up by indie distributor Giant Pictures, here's hope See You Next Christmas gets the wider audience it so definitely deserves. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic