I just watched a British movie of which I was previously unaware, but which just became perhaps my favorite Christmas movie - “Millions” - a comedy which has a uniquely Catholic viewpoint. (Some minor spoilers follow.)
The plot concerns Damien, a 7 year old Catholic boy and his older brother Anthony, who live with their newly-widowed father in a new housing development in a suburb outside Manchester. The recent death of their mother has left an obvious hole in all the family’s lives.
Damien is fascinated by the lives of the saints in a way most boys are fascinated by star athletes. (In one scene at his new school, after everyone else who is asked to name their personal hero, the other students all name football players for the local team, but Damien excitedly names saint after saint and vividly describes their gory martyrdoms until the teacher cuts him off.) As Britain is about to change its currency from the Sterling to the Euro at New Year’s Eve (which makes this, I guess, a parallel world story), a shipment of pre-converted pound notes is stolen in a train robbery and a Nike bag full of the notes winds up being tossed off a train and crashing into the cardboard playhouse which Damien has constructed next to the train tracks behind his house.
Damien and his far more cynical and worldly brother Anthony, conceal the discovery of the money from their father (because of the tax rate, as Anthony explains), then have to decide what to do with it. Anthony wants to invest it in purchasing a house, madly buys electronics and consumer goods, and begins spreading the cash around to friends to create his own entourage. Damien wants to give it away to the poor, but finds the process harder than he imagined. The two are also pursued by a sinister member of the bank robbery crew who is trying to recover the money.
Damien also has a very active, and very personal, relationship with the saints, who appear to him regularly to offer advice, and occasionally intervene. (Probably not unintentionally, the boys attend “All Saints School”) The saints who visit him include St. Clare (who first appears to him in his playhouse before the bag of money comes crashing in), St. Francis (who appears to him majestically on top of a hill overlooking the city on a gorgeously sunlit day, after Damien releases boxes of pigeons he purchased) who helpfully suggests that Damien try to help the poor instead of washing a leper’s feet, St. Nicholas (who speaks in Latin and helps Damien distribute some of the funds to some Swedish Mormon missionaries down the street, who fascinate Damien when he learns that their religion is called the Latter Day “Saints”), St. Peter (who as Patron Saint of Locksmiths gives him good advice on security hardware while Damien prepares for bed, and who memorably describes his fabled position as the gatekeeper to Heaven as “working the door,” a British term for being a bouncer at a nightclub), the Ugandan Martyrs (who help rebuild his playhouse, and offer a clue to the final resolution of his problem), and St. Joseph (who helps him escape during a Nativity play where Damien is playing Joseph, and also helps fill in his lines in the Nativity play when he vanishes, telling us that these saints are not just a product of his imagination.)