The Rooftop Christmas Tree

Up until yesterday, Sarah (Michelle Morgan) was a “big time,” “hot shot,” big city lawyer, but disillusioned by a legal but immoral (according to Sarah) eviction (at Christmas!), she quit her job, packed her bags, and returned home to Small Town, USA to start her own practice to avoid some of the law’s upsetting gray areas. Unfortunately it seems small towns have injustice as well; on her very first day, she encounters an arrogant line-cutter named John (Stephen Huszar), exactly the kind of person she was hoping to never meet again when she fled the big city. The line cutting just infuriates her; clearly Sarah has a very strong sense of right and wrong, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind!

Small Town, USA is apparently a one-judge town, a judge that Sarah’s known since childhood, a judge who fed her an awful lot of tuna salad sandwiches apparently (unnecessary detail!), a judge who recognizes her return for what it really is: a need for that one client who will restore her faith in the system, and in humanity.

Conveniently, that one client just happens to live across the street from her parents. Mr. Landis has been erecting a Christmas tree on his rooftop since Sarah was nine. No one knows why and Mr. Landis (Tim Reid) won’t tell. Sarah always admired it as a child but new neighbours aren’t as keen. For the last several years, a complaint means the city will force Mr. Landis to remove the tree, or face Christmas day in jail. Every year he chooses jail. Sarah is of course outraged to hear this, but unsurprised when she shows up to represent him in court and finds Arrogant John prosecuting the case.

And yet still they’ll fall in love by the end of the movie. I guess women always think they can change a man. They can’t, of course, not in real life, not really. But is it romantic to try? Some would say Sarah needs higher standards, but she’s already looking down on everyone from her high horse, so I’m not sure that’s a workable solution. Nor does it solve Mr. Landis’ problem, in case anyone still cares. Not to worry: due to some really spiffy timing, there’s going to be a Christmas miracle.

The only interesting thing in this movie is during one scene near the end when a bunch of people are pitching in on a construction project, I pitied the actors as they were clearly working in actual winter conditions, with a wet snow falling and a cold wind blowing it in their faces while they pretended to be cheerful about frozen manual labour. The wet, windy snow felt so familiar I wondered whether it had been filmed in our neck of the woods, and wouldn’t you know it had! (You know you’re Canadian when you recognize snow.)

This movie is baffling but relatively inoffensive, so have at it, or don’t, it’s really no thermal lining off my mittens either way.

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