Fitzgerald copy THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS Plays TIFF 2012The line that they feed you is that Christmas is the time for people to come together. The reality is that there’s nothing like a holiday to split people apart.

Edward Burns came back to TIFF for the first time in thirteen years with his new film A FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS. The film is something of a rebirth for Burns, since it has him telling the story of a working class Irish-American family for the first time since 1996. Burns also stars in the film as Gerry Fitzgerald, the oldest of the seven Fitzgerald siblings. Each has their own bit of drama going on, but the grey cloud hanging over the family as Christmas rapidly approaches is the patriarch, Jim, wants to see his children for Christmas despite being an absentee father for many years. The decision will ultimately be settled by their mother, Josie, but that won’t stop a lot of personal drama from coming to light.

I’ve long believed that Christmas stories are the toughest to tell, since they often try to suit the season first and then worry about being “a good story” second. Burns understands this, and zeroes in on the most relatable part of the holidays: our families. He understands that the family chemistry varies from person to person, and that in putting so much stock into one day is just begging for the lab to blow. To that end, the film brings in Connie Britton to allow Gerry a release from all the deep-seeded craziness. She represents that one person we all need to give us a respite from our crazy families. As is to be expected, Britton and Burns have wonderful chemistry which makes one hope that they share the screen again sometime soon.

Burns’ Christmas story wants to affect us by leaning on our sense of forgiveness. It goes so far as to invoke Dickens as its precedent that no person should be “unwelcome” during the holiday season. Furthermore, it reminds us that we all have made mistakes along the way…and if someone can forgive us, then maybe it’s our responsibility to be likewise forgiving.

Edward Burns has embraced the digital avenue available to today’s filmmakers. While FITZGERALD will get a few more special screenings like the one at TIFF, the film’s primary release will come through iTunes this November. When that happens, you’d be well-served to download it.

Then remember to call your dad.