My favorite holiday movie is probably not what you'd expect. This one is pretty freaking bleak, but Frozen River is a masterpiece of storytelling about a poor mom in Upstate New York whose deadbeat husband has gambled away the family savings. She works at the Dollar Store. Her trailer is about to get repossessed and all she wants is to be able to make a nice Christmas for her boys.
What follows though is not a syrupy sweet tale of holiday magic and miracles. It's gritty and real and pretty damn dark, but all writers can learn a lot about writing from the way this story is constructed. It's simple and pretty clear cut. The themes aren't murky. There is a definite plot. Ray, the protagonist, has a goal. She wants Christmas presents for her kids and she wants a nice, new trailer. Period. She has important choices to make and these choices come with both ethical dilemmas and serious consequences. Her choices lead to other choices and other dilemmas. There are lots of obstacles thrown in her way to stop her from reaching her ultimate goal and as we see Ray trying to solve her problems with a faulty skill set at best, we really begin to root for her to make it. We want Ray to get her new trailer.
The characters in this movie seem incredibly real. None of them are two dimensional stereotypes and the problems they face are scary, yet totally realistic.
Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It's not a Christmas movie for kids and it's not for the faint of heart. I don't think it even has a single humorous line in the whole thing. You will probably cry, I'm warning you. But this is real storytelling at its best, right here.