Let’s make one thing perfectly clear, if you are a Black person who has lived in the United States for at least three years any time in the past 17 years and you have never seen Holiday Heart, your Black card is hereby revoked. Now that that’s out of the way, I should also state that Holiday Heart is more of an unconventional family drama that somehow became an honorary holiday film, partly because Alfre Woodard is everything, partly because BET plays this movie 200 times or more each December. With all this in mind: This is one of my favourite movies ever. It’s super problematic and messy, though, so I guess I am, too.
The film’s titular character, Holiday (Ving Rhames/ Chandra Currelley) an openly gay man and fierce drag queen, is heartbroken and grieving the loss of his recently deceased boyfriend when he meets Wanda (Alfre Woodard), a drug addicted single mother. Despite Wanda’s glaring homophobia, he opens his home to Wanda and her young daughter, Niki (Jesika Reynolds). Things are going well enough with this arrangement, until Wanda rekindles her relationship with Silas (Mykelti Williamson), an ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be a successful drug dealer. This relationship is clearly unhealthy for Wanda, as an addict, but also proves to be unhealthy for Niki as well. Silas’ homophobia exacerbates Wanda’s and threatens to rub off on Niki, whom Holiday loves as his own daughter. And of course, Niki is old enough and has enough self-awareness to realize that, although her cares for her, the way that Silas earns is money is through the direct exploitation of people like her mother.
After realizes that he simply cannot leave Wanda lone with Niki, Silas manages to put his bigotry aside and give Holiday some money to look after the two of them while he’s out of town. Under Holiday’s his guidance, Niki blossoms. For this alone, Holiday Heart is an amazing film, because it directly, aggressively challenges the narrative that a heterosexual couple are the best and should be the only role models in a child’s life. It also, albeit more subtly, challenges the idea that people who do not have children of their own do not have what it takes to raise a happy, productive child.
Though Holiday Heart is wrapped in tragedy, and serves as a painful reminder that you can’t save everyone, there is much joy to be had, as we watch both Niki and Silas grow. Niki becomes stronger, after finally having a strong, dependable, loving, and consistent role model, and through witnessing Holiday’s love for Niki, Silas becomes a more tolerant and compassionate person, finally understanding that sexual orientation alone cannot make someone a better or worse person. Holiday also gets the one thing he’s always wanted about all else: a family. Though unconventional, the family that these men are able to create, bonded through the love of a child who has no one else in this world, is incredibly moving to see. This made-for-television classic became a classic for very good reason.
I give this one 4.75 stars.