(director/writer: Dana Nachman; cinematographers: Mike Abela/Martina Radwan; editor: Jennifer Steinman Sternin; music: Dave Tweedie; Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Brendan Gaul/Dana Nachman/Chelsea Matter; IFC Films; 2020-B/W)

Wholesome and heartwarming film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The director, Dana Nachman (“Pick Up The Litter”/”Baked Beans”), is known for her up-lifting true story and children’s films. This wholesome and heartwarming film is a timely one, coming during a pandemic when something cheery can be welcomed by many families. But even if it’s cheery, it’s awkwardly made and too cutely resembles a Hallmark Christmas card. It leaves us with the cliched spiritual holiday message that it’s truly better to give than receive.

The lively but slight family X-mas documentary tells us of
the little known Operation Santa program run by the U.S. Postal Service since 1912, which has volunteers (called elves) from around the country to read and answer the millions of children’s letters sent each year to Santa Claus (who has his own postal address–Santa Claus 123 Elf Road, North Pole, 88888). In some instances the elves even deliver the gifts that are requested. Even an odd one like from the little boy from NYC who gets his request of driving around Manhattan in a limo.

The film opens with various adorable children of all races glowing over their Santa perceptions and commenting on his list of who is either nice or naughty. Their letters are sweet, polite and sincere, (unlike from many of the hateful adults in this heavily divided country, who go bonkers on social media). Most kids request fairly modest gifts, many across the country request electronic products and pets. In California there’s a call for surfboards, which doesn’t happen in most other states.

The film moves along at a fast clip with recognizable Christmas songs, as it takes us around the country to see how similar or different are the children around the country. The gentle film also shows us how meaningful even a small gift can be to a child.

It’s a wonderful feel-good story about knowing what are the wishes of today’s children through their letters.

I endorse this generous program by the USPS, and only wish the film was better crafted. 

REVIEWED ON 12/13/2020  GRADE:  B-