The New Zealand film Home By Christmas, showing for a limited time in Canberra at the National Film and Sound Archive, is a film ‘memoir’ about director Gaylene Preston’s father and mother’s experiences of being separated during WWII. The story is based on recorded interviews with Preston’s father, Ed, which are reenacted for the film by Tony Barry. This interview footage is interspersed with a dramatic recreation of the era, starring Martin Henderson as a young version of Ed and Chelsie Preston-Crayford (Preston’s daughter!) as a young version of her mother, Tui. It’s a family affair, then.
The film is an interesting melding of fact and fiction, archival footage and dramatic recreation, which makes for compelling viewing. Tony Barry is a standout as Preston’s deceased father, acting out the ‘interviews’ with restraint, composure, and the gruffness that one usually sees from veterans when they talk about the carnage of war. Preston-Crayford and Henderson also turn in affecting performances and the chemistry between them is palpable. The greatest feat of the film, however, is in the interweaving narratives – told from present and past, using various forms – for which all credit must go to Gaylene Preston.
A moving memoir that reminds the viewer about the sacrifice that New Zealanders made by fighting in the war, Home by Christmas is well worth trying to get along to one of the few screenings available.