Christmas Movie Deluge ’22 soldiers on with Polish comedy Delivery by Christmas (now on Netflix), which puts one package courier at the center of a small maelstrom of misdelivered gifts. It seems to be aiming for the sublime, but lands a little on the silly, which, it turns out, isn’t such a terrible thing.
DELIVERY BY CHRISTMAS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: It’s not too big a deal if Marysia (Monika Frajczyk) takes her young son Maks (Franciszek Krupowicz) to work with her. There’s plenty of room for him in her battered-but-trusty courier van, with which she delivers packages for a gross, insecure boss who’s a slob with a pickled liver who can’t deliver a Christmas-party speech to save his life and who leans into Marysia for a completely unwarranted and unwanted kiss. Yickk. Sad and drunk, he responds to her rebuffing by mixing up labels on the four packages she needs to deliver the next day, which is especially a problem because today is the day before the day before Christmas, and the next day is therefore the day before Christmas. Uh oh.
Thankfully, Marysia has only four packages to deliver, or else this movie might be way more than 100 minutes long. Of course, the deliveries are disparately located – they can’t all be in the same neighborhood, lest the suspense be compromised. Let’s see if I can coherently sort the more dramatically critical senders, recipients and objects involved in this scenario: There’s Krzysiek (Piotr Pacek), a guy who works in an office who we meet in an earlier scene in order to establish that he’s a nice enough guy – he’s kind to Maks during a chance meeting in a restroom – in spite of his being a total j-hole to Marysia in a couple later scenes. He wants his grandfather (Zdzislaw Wardejn) to send him an engagement ring that belonged to Krzysiek’s grandmother, but Gramps is being difficult about it, so he deposits a comical object (not gonna spoil the sight gag) in a box and hands it to Marysia to deliver – to the wrong person. Eventually, anyway.
Marysia unwittingly delivers the comical object to a tailor who interprets it a certain way (you’ll figure it out), because it was sent by one of his customers, a lonely and apparently profoundly sexually unfulfilled woman (Dorota Kolak) whose husband would rather watch giraffes on TV than notice that she just dropped her nightgown. There’s an oafish fellow (Lukasz Gawronski) who’s far too old to be living with his parents (Barbara Kurzaj and Lukasz Simlat) whose gift from a female co-worker leaves him gobsmacked. What with this, that and another whatnot, a couple of cops (Zuzanna Pulawska and Radoslaw Rozniecki) get somewhat comically involved in the plot. The packages contain an ultrasound photo of an unborn child, a weird little doll with a flash drive hidden in it, and a pair of slippers; somehow, Marysia’s Christmas gift for Maks gets mixed up in this, too. Sorting all this out requires significant skills in the art of untangling things, but Marysia is pretty much the only person in this plot with all her wits and bearings, so she’s up for the task, thank god, even with Krzysiek tagging along for some reason.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: First of all, don’t confuse it with 2020 Hallmark movie Deliver by Christmas — that one doesn’t have the “y.” Delivery by Christmas is sort of the Polish Love, Actually crossed with The Butterfly Effect, because Sloppy Boss ends up significantly affecting a bunch of lives with naught but a small action.
Performance Worth Watching: Frajczyk holds the movie together with her matter-of-fact, rooted-in-reality characterization of a working-class single mom who’s surely rolled with so many life-punches by this point, a Christmas Eve package mixup is just yet another thing to add to her to-do list.
Memorable Dialogue: The oafish guy’s father shares this wisdom bon mot in reference to his son’s mighty lack of personal motivation: “The only thing that happens by itself is rusting.”
Sex and Skin: An old man’s bare, pale bum.
Our Take: One action of drunken spite almost but doesn’t really ruin a bunch of Christmases with its mischievous, lightly malevolent ripple effect – it ends up inspiring some much-needed change in all involved parties, so perhaps Sloppy Boss is an unwitting agent of Destiny himself. Not that the movie has any such grandiose notions in mind – all the ins, outs and whaddayaknows in Delivery by Christmas can be reduced to a pithy statement about finding someone whose company you truly appreciate on Christmas, because life can be too short to do otherwise. It’s a sweet sentiment. Easy to swallow, like a sip of warm holiday cocoa. Downright huggable, even.
And it’s very much a series of unfortunate-but-actually-probably-fortunate events that happen only in the movies, you know, lightly comical contrivances underscored with simple truisms. But this story isn’t wholly implausible – or predictable, maybe – which goes a long way toward keeping us on board with Marysia’s travails. Surrounded by supporting characters who are stereotypes, albeit gentle ones, Frajczyk is key to conveying the screenplay’s whimsical earnestness; the character has a job that’s undervalued by society, but Marysia understands the importance of the timely delivery of the right package to the right person during the holidays. She seems like the type of person who does the right thing more often than not, who accepts her lot in life and makes the best of it, and who’s teaching her child to do the same. Delivery by Christmas is a little silly and probably not quite as moving as it might like to be, but ultimately gets by on its modest charms.
Our Call: STREAM IT and you’ll probably smile a few times, which is not nothing. Delivery by Christmas is a light dusting of snow – easy on the eyes and pleasant, but it’s not stopping traffic.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.
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