Review: ‘Home by Christmas’

A bravura performance by Tony Barry is woven together with WWII archival footage in this touching Kiwi memoir.

A bravura performance by Tony Barry is woven together with WWII archival footage in the touching Kiwi memoir “Home By Christmas.” Based on interviews vet New Zealand helmer Gaylene Preston conducted with her now-deceased father, pic not only re-creates those conversations and their evocation of wartime yarns, but delivers a subtle dramatization of the home front’s less sensational events. Modest film drew strong local biz in April, and vet Australian character actor Barry will warm up Oz auds, though international fests may not appreciate the understatement. Pubcasters should have a look.

In a shadowy minor role, Preston plays herself as she interviews her father, Ed (Tony Barry), about his military life. Though Barry maintains his Aussie accent, he perfectly manifests the charm, wisdom and gentle belligerence of an aging ex-soldier in raconteur mode, recalling his adventures from recruitment to imprisonment. While Ed’s words are paramount, they are well supported by precise archival imagery. Second narrative strand focuses on the filmmaker’s mother, Tui (Chelsie Preston-Crayford, the helmer’s daughter). Aided by superb art direction and a strong score by Preston’s sister, Jan, pic communicates the complexity of home life with judicious minimalism.

Home by Christmas

New Zealand


A Midnight Films, New Zealand Film Commission presentation of a Gaylene Preston Prods. production in association with Midnight Films and Motion Pictures, New Zealand Film Commission, TVNZ, NZ on Air, the Wellington. (International sales: NZ Film, Wellington, New Zealand.) Produced by Gaylene Preston. Executive producer, Nigel Hutchinson. Co-producer, Sue Rogers. Directed, written by Gaylene Preston, based on interviews with Ed Preston.


Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Alun Bollinger; editor, Paul Sutorius; music, Jan Preston; production designer, John Harding. Reviewed at Sydney Film Festival, June 13, 2010. Running time: 92 MIN.


Tony Barry, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Martin Henderson, Jeremy Randerson, Tina Cleary, Gaylene Preston.

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