Love and Joy

By Michelle Bossy | Drama
A single mom spends her first Christmas alone without her child.

Single mother Claire and her daughter Riley revel in the holidays together, wrapping presents, making cookies and singing carols together. But on Christmas day, Riley goes off with her father since it's his year for Christmas, leaving Claire on her own.

Though she assures her daughter she'll be fine on her own, Claire feels pangs of loneliness and sadness on a day about family and celebration. She keeps busy with cleaning, exercising, Instagramming and talking to other family members. She tries to keep the holiday spirit alive by singing carols in her apartment, but she annoys a stressed-out, cantankerous neighbor, who Claire attempts to befriend later to no avail. Finally, she gives up and retreats to a neighborhood laundromat, where she finally finds her holiday spirit when she least expects it.

Directed by Michelle Bossy and written by Brian Pracht, this earnest, warmhearted short drama follows a single mom left to her own devices on "the most magical day of the year" for many families. Feeling alone and mourning the family togetherness of the past, Claire is fundamentally a positive character, trying to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation. But she comes up against the perception of her situation as sad, her neighbor's Grinch-like attitude and her expectations for what constitutes a perfect holiday.

Captured in an easygoing, relatable naturalism and steady pacing, Claire's efforts to make the day work for her are recognizable to anyone who has felt alone and on their own on days when it seems everyone is celebrating family, friends, love and festivity. Actor Melissa Burke-Termini deftly balances Claire's essential warmth and positivity with an underlying sadness, portraying how her efforts are also ways to keep her difficult feelings at bay. When she finally accepts where she is at, in all its anti-magical realness, she connects with others who might be in the same place -- and finds the elusive connection and joy she'd been chasing all day.

Big-hearted and generous of spirit, "Love and Joy" celebrates the trappings of the holiday, reveling in presents, music, cookies and more. The idea of Christmas magic and the potential for creating beautiful memories that last a lifetime is powerful, but it also sets up high expectations that can often be dashed by the uncertainties of life. But Claire's journey reminds us to look beyond the desire for Hallmark holiday card perfection and connect to something deeper and more essential. As Claire discovers, the holiday is about celebration, generosity and togetherness, but those much-desired qualities can be found anywhere and anytime -- if your heart is open enough to see and receive these gifts in even the most unexpected of ways.

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