I’m sure you have all heard the song on the radio. “Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my momma please. It’s Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size.” The first time I heard this song I just shook my head for two reasons: #1 Why was there a song about shoes and #2 What was so Christmas-y about this tune? But then the chorus continues, “Could you hurry, Sir? Daddy says there’s not much time. You see, she’s been sick for quite a while and I know these shoes will make her smile and I want her to look beautiful if Momma meets Jesus tonight.”
Seriously? If you don’t get a little bit choked up while listening to that song then you’re either a serious grinch or there’s an emptiness inside of your chest where your heart should be. The song was then produced into a novel by Donna VanLiere and then later on was adapted into a TV-movie.
The film explores the magic of this song and expands it to a 94 minute tear-fest with a holiday season back-drop. Maggie Andrews (Kimberly Williams) is a mother of one, a loving wife, and the volunteer for the school’s chorus. She discovers early on in the film that she has a heart problem and needs a transplant before it’s too late. The news hits the lower-middle class family hard. Maggie’s husband, Jack, works at a auto-shop and their young son, Nathan, can’t stop talking about getting a puppy.
Meanwhile, the other family in focus are the Laytons. Robert Layton (Rob Lowe) is a work-aholic lawyer who has high hopes to move into a bigger house with his wife, Kate (Maria del Mar), and their young daughter. But he’s so wrapped up in making money and working he doesn’t allow himself time to spend with his family. He misses his daughter’s concert and he doesn’t listen to what his wife wants and needs.
When Maggie gets too sick, Kate takes over the chorus. Robert doesn’t appreciate her decision to put aside a job offer to volunteer with the school’s chorus and the tension between the Laytons peak. Meanwhile, Maggie receives the bad news that she is going to die.
Death is always a terribly tragic event in any situation, but when it’s drawn out in a movie, it makes the on-screen death that much sadder. There are many tear-jerking scenes as Maggie is lying in her death bed inside the house. She talks with Nathan and her husband for the last time and when Nathan does all he could to obtain a pair of shoes for his mom, that’s when the film achieves its greatest sobbing moments.
In addition to that storyline, there are many touching moments with the Laytons. When Robert’s mother tells him to make memories, not money and then she reminisces with him about his childhood, it’s hard not to feel for the characters. And when Robert’s mom passes away as well, it’s not as sad as Maggie’s death but it’s still very moving.
The Christmas Shoes is a deliberately sad film that draws out the tragedy for as long as it can to maximize the crying potential. It’s cheesy and quite ridiculous if you don’t allow yourself to be sucked into the vulnerable feelings of the characters. What it’s like to lose a loved one during the holidays is certainly a hardship for anyone that will last a lifetime. Maggie’s death brings out the theme to live everyday to the fullest, which is exactly what Robert Layton learns.
This is certainly a Christmas film that will hard to be forgotten because of it’s unconventional story during the holiday season. But there are morals and lessons learned that makes the film strong enough for families to enjoy.