Thea Raveneau, Helen Thomson, David Roberts, Darren Gilshenan, Max Jahufer, Ryan Morgan, Charlotte Chimes, Gary Sweet, Rachel Griffiths
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… moves and feels like a Hallmark movie.
It is always upsetting when an Australian film clearly has its heart in the right place, and yet, for a handful of reasons, does not hit in the way the creative team behind it expected it to.
A Savage Christmas marks the directorial debut of Madeleine Dyer, tackles multiple relevant and interesting social issues and is an Aussie-led Christmas film! However, the movie itself does nothing particularly new or interesting with these themes.
Set on Christmas Day in Queensland, the film’s main character – Davina (Thea Raveneau), a trans woman – returns to her family home for the first time since her transition three years earlier. Davina is accompanied by her trans partner, Kane (co-writer Max Jahufer), whose cultural differences throw Davina’s insanely Aussie parents (played by David Roberts and Helen Thomson) for a spin.
The parents appear as if they have never met a trans person before or ever interacted with someone who was not caucasian. There is a moment in which Kane shows the couple Sri Lankan curry, and the parents ask, “What is that?” in a stupidly derogatory way. It stems from an unrealistic place, especially in the now – that said, this is set in Queensland, but still.
The family is joined by Davina’s substance abusing brother James Jr (Ryan Morgan) and her sister Leia (Charlotte Chimes), who is going through a bitter divorce. Both storylines are half-baked, and not as cutting as they need to be.
A Savage Christmas moves and feels like a Hallmark movie. The comedy is obvious and cliched. The parents are out of touch, they do not care for pronouns, they are selfish and parade around their own success instead of being in touch with their children… It is stuff that audiences have all seen before, and Dyer and her co-writers do little to diversify their comedy or heartfelt moments in the movie. From the second the film starts, you can tell exactly what is going to happen.
The filmmaking itself is fine, though there are some terrible green screen ‘shots’, which speaks to the film’s low budget.
The creative team behind the project looked at movies like Silver Linings Playbook and Death at A Funeral as influence… But what those films both possess that A Savage Christmas does not, is purpose. What’s most bothersome is that there is not a hint of authenticity. It feels artificially created.
Of course, the parents don’t approve of the trans character and constantly refer to them by their deadname. Of course, there is a drunk uncle (Darren Gilshenan). Of course, the son is a Soundcloud rapper. And naturally, of course, by the end of the movie, all of these things will be resolved, and in the spirit of Christmas, the family will become closer. It’s just boring. It’s the stuff that you have seen a million times before, except this time, it’s sunny, bogan Queensland.
There are just not enough interesting aspects to the film, which is bitterly disappointing as Australian Christmases are unique, and have never really been given the ‘definitive’ feature film adaptation. Unfortunately, A Savage Christmas does not come close.