Monday, December 16, 2019

Christmas: While You Were Sleeping and Home Alone

(This post first appeared years ago in our site.)

There are Christmas films set in churches and featuring clergy. The couple of films we're looking at today aren't among those. Churches play cameo roles in both of these films. But they are interesting cameos.
You don't usually see While You Were Sleeping on lists of Christmas films. It is one, of course. Sure, it's a rom-com, but it's all set in the Christmas season. The story's activating incident happens on Christmas Day. The man (Peter is the character's name, which also happens to be the name of the actor, Peter Gallagher) that Lucy (Sandra Bullock) has been the secretly longing for is pushed onto the tracks of a Chicago L train. He falls into a coma (the 'sleeping' of the title) and while he is there, through a series of rom-com misunderstanding, Lucy is mistaken for Peter's fiance. Zaniness and an eventually happy ending ensue.
There are three churches in the film. As a young girl, Lucy's father takes her to the church where he married Lucy's mother, who died when Lucy was young. It's a pilgrimage. He would tell her about the beautiful cathedrals of Europe. In Europe christenings, marriages, and funerals are often the only reasons many people go to a church. This is sad, but it's interesting that some of the most important events and memories are still found there.

The next church we see is the Catholic Church that Peter's family regularly attends.  The priest, as part of the prayer for the people, prays for Peter (still in a coma.) Peter's father and brother discuss business during the prayer, but it's still important for them to be there. Peter's grandmother says, "I like the Mass in Latin better. It's nicer when you don't understand it." Peter's family doesn't seem to fully understand why going to church is important, except for the tradition of it. But that is a reason.

And finally, we see Lucy and Peter (after he awakens from his coma and is convinced he forgot about his engagement) in the hospital chapel for their wedding. I'm not too impressed with the pastor performing the ceremony who apparently hasn't even taken the time to ask the couple he's marrying how long they've known each other.

A single church plays a significant role in Home Alone.  (Actually, that one church is two churches: Trinity United Methodist of Wilmette, IL provides the exterior while Grace Episcopal Church of Oak Park, IL provides the interior. I guess it's a Federated Church.)

Young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Caulkin) is accidentally abandoned by his family in their home in a Chicago suburb when they leave for a Christmas vacation in France. He finds himself pursued by criminals in his neighborhood, and he runs toward a nearby church. He hides in Nativity Scene. The crooks will not go near the church. It's a sanctuary.

On Christmas Eve, Kevin is lonely and afraid. He goes back to the church, inside this time. He takes off his hat and studies the statues and stained glass. He then sees an old man, Marley (Roberts Blossom) his neighbor. His older brother told him the neighbor was a mass murderer. But since they're in church, Kevin allows the man to sit next to him.

Kevin admits he's feeling rotten. The neighbor tells him "This is the place to be if you're feeling bad about yourself." He also assures Kevin that "You're always welcome at church." Outside of his own home, the church seems to be the one place in the film that Kevin seems to feel most secure.

So of these churches, I'd probably go the one in Home Alone. They have a pretty decent music program.

So I'll give the church of Home Alone our highest rating of Four Steeples.

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