Between final papers, exams and dreaded dreary weather, this time of year is hard for students. For students who are living away from their families during the supposed happiest season, it’s even harder. Like me, they are missing out on decorating their home, holiday baking and spending time with their loved ones.
When I feel homesick during the holiday season, the only movie that can cheer me up is Home Alone (1990). It has to be the first one too – anything after a sequel is enough and six is definitely too many. For those unfamiliar of this holiday classic, Home Alone follows a kid, Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay 'Macaulay Culkin' Culkin), who is accidentally left behind on a family trip to Paris on Christmas. His mother (Catherine O’Hara) defies odds to reunite with her son while Kevin defend his house against holiday robbers.
The original brings a special magic to it that the ones after it can’t seem to recreate. It is equal parts heartwarming and funny, especially with iconic Canadian actors like Catherine O’Hara and John Candy (who plays a polka star).
This film’s nostalgic magic starts with the technical elements. Movies from the ‘90s have this yellow tinge to its scenes. It’s not an intentional aspect, more so a sign of the era. It reminds me of the lights on my parent’s Christmas tree and all the family gatherings we’d had around it that I can’t be anything but warm when I look at this movie.
John Williams’s score is impeccable, with my favourite being “Somewhere in My Memory” — a song that hits differently now that I live away from home. For the past two holidays, I haven’t had much time to celebrate the holiday season with my family because I’ve had to be in Vancouver for my exams. My sister sends photos of the decorated tree, the gingerbread cookies my mum made and all of the snow, but it’s not the same as experiencing it. All of those cozy moments with my family only exist in my memory; to get to see Kevin experience a similar bout of longing is affirming.
The other half of the magic is due to how realistic it is. Family members like Uncle Frank (who would definitely have a hard time accepting your new pronouns) are unfortunately common. The chaos of the holidays with people racing around the house is something many can relate to — for me, it’s an aspect I look forward to. Kevin acts just like the students away from home. He gets and decorates a tree by himself, longing for people to do it with. He realizes that the holidays are a time to forgive and get along with your family, even if for the other 51 weeks they annoy you to no end.
Although the robbers and traps are what people most associate with the movie, it really only takes up half an hour. This movie focuses on what’s really important around the holidays – family. Many Christmas movies fall prey to the focus on capitalism but Home Alone doesn’t. This movie could be set around any other holiday and it could work. Yes, there is a whole scene with Santa and yes, there are Christmas trees all over the place. But at the end of the day, this is a movie about a mother trying to get back to her eight year old son. If family trying to reunite is a theme restricted to Christmas, we’re going to need to have a discussion.
Anytime I feel that holiday homesickness, I just turn on Home Alone and the ache in my chest dissipates a little bit.