M, 99 minutes
'Tis the season to be jolly, apparently, but for how many of us is that actually true?
Sydney filmmaker Heath Davis presents this dark comedy-drama as something of an antidote to those photogenic coupled-up saccharine Christmas rom-coms that fill up our streaming services at this time of year.
Chris Frank (Steve Le Marquand) was once a well-known actor and personality, but the high life came with a big price tag.
As the Christmas season approaches, Chris finds himself placed in a halfway house in the western suburbs of Sydney after finishing a long stint in rehab.
There is a good support network in this home, where Chris's sponsor, Nick (Darren Gilshenan), and Joy (Hannah Joy), another recent rehab graduate, are living.
Flat broke, Chris lands himself a much-needed gig as a shopping mall Santa, which has an added bonus of being in the neighbourhood of his long-estranged daughter, Noelle (Nicole Pastor).
Christmas might be a time for counting blessings, but for Chris, Joy and Nick, the real challenge is just making it from day to day.
Davis's film might come with the seasonal trimmings, but this is really a character study about a handful of folk living on the fringes.
His screenplay is full of clever comic writing and funny scenarios, but all of it dark or wringing with pathos.
In one scene, Le Marquand's Chris discovers first-hand how little of the Christmas spirit lives in the hearts of his new neighbours when he goes door-to-door looking for help cooking a turkey after the halfway house stove dies.
Some of the humour is just so subtle, and so Aussie, like the squeal of a loose fan belt every time underpaid sponsor and social-worker Nick drives his old car.
Le Marquand led Davis's 2015 film Broke, playing a former footy legend rehabbing his life.
This film is lighter in tone, and Le Marquand is adept at the jump from the dark to the light moments.
Davis even plays with Le Marquand's real-life resume in Hollywood and Australia when writing for Chris - both had brushes with one-time Hollywood A-lister Chris O'Donnell.
Joy, in real life a singer with the band Middle Kids, takes a minute to ease into her role.
She ends up delivering some zinger dialogue and is so charming when her character picks up her guitar, strumming away in the halfway house lounge room.
Gilshenan is also a fine performer, and this trio are the heart beating within a film that is really about self-forgiveness, which is one of those 12 steps.
The thing I like most about this film, and about Davis's work generally, is the proof up there on the screen that to succeed as an Aussie filmmaker, you don't need to hire an American B-list actor, or make a no-budget genre movie.
Just be genuine and trust your characters will shine through good writing and honest performances.
Davis's long-time cinematographer Chris Bland shoots Sydney's Campbelltown in honey tones, beautiful to look at even when you're wincing at the awkwardness of the characters existing within it.
Just like the picture show men of old, Davis is taking Christmess on the road, showing it in a number of regional locations and attending many of the opening day screenings himself.
It's the kind of gruelling work you need to do when you're an independent filmmaker releasing your own film.
The only way small films like this make it a second and third week in your local cinema is if you support them with your wallet and your word-of-mouth.