Who’s been naughty, and who’s been nice? That’s the question Santa Claus has been asking for centuries, and this year Finnish first-time feature director Jalmari Helander answers: It’s Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. The movie is naughty in its early subversion (though the Father Christmas of the Nordic countries, never has been as jovial as Coca Cola artists would have us believe), but too nice in its conclusion. So, let's just say it’s a mixed bag of gifts.
The satirical, bitter, but sometimes quite touching story follows the quest of a young boy who becomes convinced that the corporate greedies excavating in some local mountains are responsible for the deaths of several reindeer herds, and that somehow an evil, long-dormant Santa Claus is behind it all. In his childhood innocence, the boy believes that he can somehow save the world. He rounds up a few adults by convincing them that if they get to Santa Claus first, they can kidnap him and sell him on eBay -- and the movie moves into action.
Based upon a series of online shorts done by Helander a few years back, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale suffers from some inherent disjointedness (although none of this was lifted from the web-tale – it’s a real movie, shot for theatrical), but there are some very arresting visuals.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson