Cannes Hidden Gem ‘Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point’ Is Designed as a “Really Warm Hug on a Cold Night”

The Christmas movie is a genre unto itself. It includes all types of films, from classics like It’s a Wonderful Life to comedies like Home Alone to actioners like Die Hard. But while any movie can pop a tree and some stockings in the frame, a memorable Christmas movie must do one thing: make the audience feel the spirit of the season, an objective clearly at the heart of Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point, which will see its Cannes world premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight program.

The third feature from director-writer Tyler Taormina (Ham on Rye), Miller’s Point employs a framing story about a multigenerational Italian family coming home for the holidays. But the film is more tone poem than plot-driven narrative, with an atmosphere of holiday nostalgia permeating every scene. A soundtrack of ’60s pop hits plays like a loop of Christmas songs, almost tricking the ear, and sets are loaded with the kind of Christmas trimmings that Taormina and co-writer Eric Berger grew up with.

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“So much of this film comes from decorations. That was the big spark for this film, the decorations we used to put in our homes for Christmas for the holidays,” Taormina says. “This thing we do — we put all these random things up and make the house look so exciting — there’s no real use of doing it, but it’s like this proof that life is just so worth celebrating. We’re doing it just because we want to have this celebration. And we figured that the movie is kind of the same thing, where it’s drawing from all these memories that are just affirming the beauty of life.”

But as with any celebration, it’s the guests that make or break the vibe, and the film is populated with archetypal characters that would be right at home in the audience’s own Christmas home videos. Taormina and Berger based those characters on friends and families from their Long Island hometown, Smithtown, where they also shot the film.

“A lot of these people that you see are just a big amalgamation of our memories,” Taormina says, “of the people who left impressions on us, who we just feel so passionately about freezing in time.”

Similarly, Taormina used a Long Island tradition as a turning point in the film, re-creating an annual spectacle where the local fire department covers its trucks in Christmas decorations and parades through the town. Taormina gives the scene a stylized treatment; as they speed past, the trucks look more like magical light paintings than fire engines.

“That scene has its place in like a whole grand chemistry — it’s part of a puzzle,” Taormina says. “But I think it’s revealing to the audience definitively for the first time that all of what you see is just for the sake of seeing it, and that to me is the most honor I could give to my memories, not trying to attach them to a plotline. It’s just for memory’s sake.”

As for what he hopes audiences take away from the film, Taormina’s intentions are as comforting as a Christmas carol.

“I want this film to be a really warm hug on a cold night,” he says.

'Christmas Eve in Miller's Point' still
‘Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point’

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