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> Home by Christmas
4 stars (out of 5)
Director: Gaylene Preston
Cast: Tony Barry, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Martin Henderson, Tina Cleary, Jeremy Randerson
Kiwi director Gaylene Preston is best loved for the film War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us, which recounts the wartime experiences of seven Kiwi women, including her mother.
With Home By Christmas (Rialto) she turns to her father's war memories and again she has produced an instant Kiwi classic, likely to be a classroom resource for generations.
Near the end of his life she persuaded her dad Ed to be interviewed on tape about his war. It is these tapes she has dramatised.
Edward Preston (played by Tony Barry and Martin Henderson) is a typical old codger, carefree down at the bowling club but keeping his emotional cards close to his chest.
Ed left a young pregnant wife for an overseas adventure and the promise of being back before Christmas. He later says he kept his promise, just mucked up over which Christmas.
While war is hell, Ed is more interested in recalling the larks.
There are amusing intergenerational conflicts. Gaylene keeps asking about sex and a testy Ed says it was food they were worried about. Home by Christmas is a moving tribute to the sort of Kiwi joker who seems to be going the way of the dodo.
Best thing: Tony Barry is wonderful as an old bloke reluctantly recounting his past. He manages to play Ed as extraordinary and ordinary, which of course he was.
Worst thing: Ed spins a good yarn but he is always holding back. The habit of sparing those who were not there the real details is too ingrained.
See it with: someone who lived through the war - or someone who has never heard of it. Either way it will spark some great conversations.
- Christine Powley.