This Queer short film review is part of my “Queer Christmas Shorts for 2020” post.

Christmastime can be tricky for queer folks, especially when their families are religious. Going into a church alone can be tricky. Yet this short, which clearly shows a gay man who does not feel welcome inside his mother’s church, tries to bridge that gap – while giving us a dose of Christmas cheer.

Synopsis of “Goodwill”

Daniel (Stan Elliott) walks out of the church, sitting down on the steps to text someone as he is visibly struggling with issues. Eventually ringing them, he mutters, “I can’t do it; it’s too much.” before asking to be picked up. But even sitting on the church steps is too close, so Daniel heads further away to wait. Suddenly our view is blocked, Daniel’s mum (Amie Knight) has come to convince him to come back inside. “Your sister is playing Mary”, she pleads before asking if he’s just going to sit out in the cold for the rest of the service. “Mark is picking me up”, he replies, which clearly is not the answer his mum wanted to hear. But when she starts in on how it’s Christmas and time to spend with family, he interrupts and cries out that Mark IS his family; they’ve been dating for two years now. When they head into what appears to be a standoff, Mark (Henry Kombert) walks up to a clearly tense situation. But when Mark hears the Christmas carol coming from inside, he mentions that it’s his favourite. Turns out Mark’s family is Christian and he grew up going to mass, especially on Christmas Day. With a pleasant twist, Mark asks Sue, Daniel’s mum, if it’s ok if he goes into the service with them. Flabbergasted, she finally welcomes him to join. When Mark asks Daniel if he’ll join them as well, he caves and they all head back inside while a girl’s voice continues to sing the rest of “O Holy Night”.

Still from "Goodwill" - Daniel and his mother stand outside the church, looking off to the side as Daniel's boyfriend walks up (offscreen)

My Critique

Overall, “Goodwill” is a beautiful short film. Cinematographically it is strong. Each shot is captured with steady camera work and there’s an artistic flair about how writer/director Rebecca Palmer positions each actor. It almost feels like Daniel’s mum is talking to us directly, yet since we still catch that out of focus glimpse of Daniel’s hair, the balance is kept. Or rather the awkwardness is allowed to build – because the script is rather remarkable itself. Right away, we know there’s a problem to overcome and many queer viewers can easily relate to Daniel’s issue. We’ve all been there, having to explain why we don’t feel welcome in church because of our sexuality, wanting to run away into our comfort zones.

In this case though, Daniel’s comfort zone in his boyfriend Mark turns out to be a bit of a twist! We all are surprised when Mark asks to join the service. Kuddos to Daniel for keeping an open mind though, because if I called someone to get me out of an awkward situation and they in turn invited themselves back in – they may no longer by my boyfriend! Yet because of a simple line Daniel starts out with “I can’t do it; it’s too much” – we already know that Daniel was trying. In this case, Mark is truly the supportive partner and offers that bridge over troubled water to appease both Daniel and his mum. You can’t help smiling as your heart melts.

I really don’t have much to critique. I did feel Stan Elliot was a bit whiny and stubborn, but it’s within his character and contrasts with how Amie Knight portrays his mother. But something is holding me back from giving “Goodwill” a full 5/5. I think it’s actually the opening sequence when the camera focuses in on the garland on the iron railing with Daniel in the background, out of focus. While artistic and a great way to start off the short, I think returning to that same focus after Daniel is on the phone with Mark actually is taking the focus away from where it belongs.

Still from "Goodwill" - Mark, Daniel's boyfriend, walks up to meet Daniel outside the church

While this is truly a short queer film, it’s three and a half minutes of good storytelling and cinematography that leaves us with that dash of Christmas hope. What more could you want from a Queer Christmas short? Head over to YouTube where you can watch “Goodwill” for yourself. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

Queer Relevance of “Goodwill”

A gay man who, struggling to feel welcome inside his mother’s church, reaches out to his boyfriend for support. Definitely a queer short, but we also get a glimpse of how just because most religions have shunned queer folks for centuries, not all queer persons are anti-religious.