"Millions" - My new favorite Christmas film

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.)

The little boy who plays the unworldly (in the best sense of the word) Damien is adorable, and it’s charming that every time he meets a saint, he excitedly exclaims the years of their birth and death (“St Francis of Assisi! 1181 ‘til 1226!”). Also sweet is that he asks each Saint if they happened to meet his mother in Heaven. When St. Nicholas asks for a better description, Damien thoughtfully suggests that his mother, who worked at a cosmetics counter, might be the Patron Saint of Skin Care Products.

The film examines charity, and materialism, and how money can wind up controlling us and changing us. It’s a movie that both adults and older children can enjoy. It’s beautifully and inventively photographed, as when the boys lying on the chalked out lines for their new home watch it build itself around them.

The Manchester accent of the actors may be a little hard for some younger children to understand. There are some adult themes, and the ominous thief could be very scary for younger children. There is also a scene where Damien looks at what his older brother Anthony is viewing on the Internet (an on-line ad for brassieres), and they have a discussion about what the woman’s nipple that is visible under the sheer brassiere is for - “Feeding babies,” Anthony says, which takes an unexpected turn and leads to a discussion of the memories of their mom caring for them when they were younger.

Catholics may also have an issue with an unnecessary scene where St. Clare is depicted as smoking a hand-rolled cigarette (probably intended as a joint, although she doesn’t smoke it like one - you could always argue that it is tobacco, which is marginally better), which Damien questions her about, and a scene where St. Peter describes the miracle of the loaves and fishes in somewhat prosaic (but still miraculous, in terms of charity) terms that is at variance with the Bible’s description of the event. There is also a scene where Damien walks in on his dad in bed with a new girlfriend, which does not involve nudity or sex but is depicted as upsetting for all concerned. It’s actually nice to see a film where children are NOT depicted as sexually jaded - Damien obviously doesn’t understand what is going on, but is obviously uncomfortable.

Other than those scenes, there is not much that could be objectionable for children. There is a scene near the end that is wonderful but a real tear-jerker, and an ending that presents a good final resolution to Damien’s problems.

If you rent or buy the DVD, make sure to watch the deleted scenes in the extras on the disc, particularly the deleted scene titled “Saints in the Loft.” It’s a wonderful expansion of a scene from the film where Damien, terrified and hiding in an attic in an empty house while a pursuer looks for him downstairs, looks around in the dark and sees that he is sitting inside a circle of all the saints who have appeared to him throughout the film, all praying quietly but fervently for his well-being. The look of serenity that comes over him at that moment is one of the best representations of the Church Triumphant communing with the Church Militant that I can think of.

I want to watch it here in the Far East.

I really liked that movie, too.

imdb.com/title/tt0366777/

I want to see this movie.

I wonder if this is on Netflix…

You can order the DVD rental through Netflix but I don’t think it’s on streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime.

I found it at a local (Berks County, southeast PA, USA) public library a couple of years ago. (Libraries can get DVDs from other libraries through the inter-library loan system.)

That’s how I got it, through the mail with Netflix. I loved it too.

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