“Silent Night” is based on a true story – in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge, on Christmas Eve 1944, a German woman gave refuge to soldiers from both sides in the mountain cabin where she and her son were weathering the storm– both literally and figuratively. She stubbornly insisted that the soldiers leave their guns, and their war, outside. Inside, they celebrated Christmas.
Starring Linda Hamilton of “Terminator” fame, “Silent Night” feels very much like a community theater project, trying very hard to be “real theater” and not to slip into sentimentality or amateurism. It gets full marks for trying, and for the most part, succeeding. Christmas movies, especially made for TV ones, veer all too willingly into hokiness, piling on the schmaltz at every turn and trusting that at Christmas, people are more interested in feel-good cliches than in beauty or truth.
But nothing feels quite as good and beauty and truth in real time. And the director and actors in “Silent Night” strive for something deeper and more profound than your usual holiday movie fare here; it feels like they want to show that peace is a serious issue, that miracles are more than the territory of guardian angels named Clarence, and that, above all, the power of a shared holiday is real– that real soldiers, can, and did, overcome their differences in the spirit of the season and find common ground on Christmas eve.
While it’s head and shoulders above most holiday movie fare, “Silent Night” suffers a little from its own earnestness – the director, and actors, are so determined not to be corny, the thing feels a little stiff. It could stand some spontaneity; a little air would do it some good. But all in all, it’s one of the better little-known holiday films out there, and worth your time. It’s a heckuva lot better than “Elf.”