Here's why sappy Christmas movies are good for the soul
Sappy movies are the Christmas gifts that keep on giving.
Emotional cinema classics such as It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street have melted cold hearts over the years around the holidays, but it turns out they're also good for your mental well-being.
"Those kinds of movies that celebrate hope, celebrate the possibility of a better life, that kind of thing, they're needed all the time.
But Christmas is a season dedicated to that feeling and need," says Skip Dine Young, professor of psychology at Indiana's Hanover College and author of Psychology at the Movies.
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Two new movies are additions to that seasonal canon: In Collateral Beauty (now showing), an advertising executive played by Will Smith engages human representations of Love, Time and Death to come to grips with the loss of his young daughter.
And A Monster Calls (in theatres Friday in the US, here some time in 2017), though not exactly holiday-themed, calls for tissues as it centres on a British boy (Lewis MacDougall) who conjures a tree monster while taking care of his dying mother (Felicity Jones).
Although such releases don't always work out - case in point, Collateral Beauty's disastrous US$7 million opening weekend - Hollywood studios "look at this time of year as a time of escapism but also of connecting with the warm-and-fuzzy side of how people feel," says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore.
Eggnog is too rich to drink all year, and similarly, tales such as Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol or pretty much anything on the Hallmark Channel act as a tonic in December, says Alonso Duralde, a film critic for trade site TheWrap.com and author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas.
"Christmas time is when we open ourselves up to correcting our past mistakes and rekindling our old relationships, just like Ebenezer Scrooge does," Duralde says.
"We light a candle to ward off the darkness of winter, and we seek out sentimentality to keep our hearts from growing too chilly."
Young acknowledges that a lot of his research is in the way films act as "equipment for living," and holiday fare such as the musical White Christmas, super-sentimental Love Actually or the unconventionally touching Bill Murray comedy Scrooged work on two levels: They help people already in the spirit get in touch with the holiday but also act as a salve for the downtrodden.
"The season is meant to celebrate hope and renewal," Young says.
"The contrast sometimes leads to people who aren't feeling it to experience the opposite: depression, hopelessness, feeling like they lack something in this season that's supposed to be about giving in abundance."
Everybody's got their favourites to embrace around the holiday, even movie critics. "One person's milk of human kindness is another person's saccharine," says Duralde, who sheds "a few tears every December" for It's a Wonderful Life and 1970's Scrooge with Albert Finney.