I had the pleasure of watching this outstanding romantic comedy in my local theater today. I walked out smiling and feeling great. Christmas in the Clouds won the Audience Award for Best Feature Film at the Austin Film Festival, and was voted Best Native Film at the Santa Fe Film Festival, both richly deserved honors.
It’s a romantic comedy, filmed entirely in Utah on Robert Redford’s Sundance property. The film was written and directed by Kate Montgomery, and it’s a clever script, well rendered by the actors.
Joe Clouds on Fire (Sam Vlahos) begins to tell his story as he is driving his old beat-up truck along a mountainous road. He has been corresponding with Tina Littlehawk (Mariana Tosca) who lives in New York, and his letters have impressed Tina. She decides to pay Joe a surprise visit, and books a room at the resort where Joe’s son, Ray Clouds on Fire (Tim Vahle), is the general manager. She does not use her real name, wanting to check things out with Joe anonymously.
Ray is anxious about a review that will end up in a prominent travel guide, but doesn’t know the identity of the person who will be judging the resort. The staff mistake Tina for the real reviewer, who is Stu O’Malley (M. Emmet Walsh), a grumpy alcoholic estranged from his daughter.
To further complicate the case of mistaken identity, Tina thinks that Ray is her pen pal Joe, and Ray thinks that Tina is the anonymous reviewer for the travel guide. Ray and Tina begin to fall for each other, and around them are all the resort staff, a colorful group of characters, each with their own quirks and endearing qualities.
Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart) plays Earl, the resort’s vegetarian chef, who is chagrined at Ray’s request that he also serve meat to the diners. There are so many funny jokes throughout that it’s hard for me to pick my favorite. Wes Studi has a cameo appearance playing himself, and there is an adorable mouse running about the resort that is as much a character in the story as the people around him.
The music is mostly Native American in influence. There is a beautiful rendition of Silent Night, sung in the Ute language and accompanied by R. Carlos Nakai. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and hope you get to see it in your own local theaters this holiday season.