Australian Council on Children and the Media

Christmas Jars

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Not suitable under 6; parental guidance to 8 (emotionally sad/distressing themes (abandonment by parent; domestic violence; death of parent). May lack interest for young audiences – most suitable for a slightly older audience due to heavy as well as romantic themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Christmas Jars
  • a review of Christmas Jars completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 7 December 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to emotionally sad/distressing themes (abandonment by parent; domestic violence; death of parent).
Children aged 6–8 Parental guidance recommended due to emotionally sad/distressing themes (abandonment by parent; death of parent), and possible lack of interest.
Children aged 9 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Christmas Jars
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 110 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

When a good-hearted waitress finds an abandoned newborn baby at the diner she works at, she decides to adopt the little girl and, inspired by the note left by the birth mother, she names the little girl "Hope". 22 years later, Hope (Jeni Ross) works as a newsroom assistant for an online magazine but has aspirations to be recognised as a writer. Tragically, her beloved adoptive Mum dies of cancer and, just when she feels at her lowest, Hope finds her apartment burgled and ransacked. To her surprise, shortly after she finds a jar filled with coins and small cash at her doorstep, labelled "Christmas Jar". When Hope starts researching, she realises that she is not the only one to have received such a mysterious gesture of kindness in a time of crisis. Intrigued, she pitches the story to her editor and lands the opportunity she had been waiting for: to write a start page Christmas feature. Little does she know that what starts as a journalistic investigation will not only lead to discovering the very origins of the ‘Christmas Jar’ movement, but to meeting people that will change her life forever.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family; Christmas spirit; Romance; Tearjerker.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some implied violence in this movie, including:

  • Hope's birth mother explains that her husband was very violent and that she was scared of him. In a flashback scene, she is seen with a black eye.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Learning that Hope was first abandoned by her birth mother and then loses her adoptive Mum to cancer could upset children, especially if this is a personally relevant topic.
  • There are a few emotionally intense scenes, dealing with very sad, heavy topics: Hope's adoptive Mum collapsing in pain, implying she is sick; seeing Hope crying while receiving bad news from a doctor; Hope and her adoptive Mum cuddling on the couch and her Mum looking sick and wearing a headscarf, implying she has cancer; Hope coming home to an empty apartment after the funeral, sobbing; Hope getting emotional and sad when being reminded of her adoptive Mum; Hope's birth mother explaining the sad and scary circumstances that forced her to give up her baby.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Some of the above-mentioned scenes could scare or disturb children in this age group.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Hope and her fiancé exchange one brief kiss.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • People are having social drinks at a Christmas work party and there is mention of drinking eggnog on Christmas Eve.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

Christmas Jars is a sweet and romantic family holiday movie, based on a best-selling novel by Jason F. Wright, and a real-life movement of anonymous gift-giving. It is full of endearing characters – albeit in some cases a bit too goofy, in other cases a little bit too perfect – and inspiring, positive messages about hope, kindness, selflessness, and forgiveness. Emotionally very heavy and intense themes like domestic violence, abandonment, and loss, as well as a focus on love and romance, render the movie most suitable for a slightly older audience, and parental guidance is recommended for younger and sensitive viewers. Tissues should be kept within close reach for several tear-jerking scenes.

The main messages from this movie are that there is more kindness and generosity out there in the world than one may sometimes think, and that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Kindness
  • Helping those in need and crisis
  • Having an open heart
  • Honesty
  • Making up for and learning from mistakes
  • Courage
  • Forgiveness.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Dishonesty and ruthless pursuit of goals: In the hunt for a great story, Hope is not honest about her true identity and motives when she first meets the family who started the 'Christmas Jars'. Soon, she finds herself entangled in more and more lies, and ends up disappointing and hurting the people she deeply cares about, and almost loses them. It is thanks to Hope's brave, public apology and the generosity and kindness of the family that this story comes to a happy end.

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