Donna Mills and Donna Pescow play Carol and Karen’s mothers, respectively. Seeing them on-screen again is an unexpected treat. Time has been kind to both of them. For readers under 50, Donna Mills was on Knots Landing, and Donna Pescow co-starred in Saturday Night Fever. We liked our Donnas back in the day. To round out the cast, it wouldn’t be a family film without a cute kid, and Elijah Maximus (who should grow up to star in a Gladiator reboot) fits the bill perfectly as Scott and Karen’s precocious son, Jeremy.
If soap-style family drama is not your thing, then this won’t sway you. However, if this genre is your cup of tea, you won’t be disappointed. To be clear, I’m not saying it’s good for a film made by developmentally disabled people. Carol of the Bells is a high-quality film by any standard. It adds an unexpected dimension to the usual genre fare by exploring circumstances most people don’t face. Mother and son must come to terms with the past and decide on a future as a family.
“a high-quality film…adds an unexpected dimension to the usual genre fare by exploring circumstances most people don’t face.”
This is the first feature from Joey Travolta’s Inclusion Films, which started in 2007. He teaches filmmaking to individuals with developmental disabilities and employs his students in various projects. In this film, 70% of the cast and production crew have a developmental disability.
In an interview with Ain’t it Cool News, Travolta discussed the movie, stating, “Besides running workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, I do camps for kids that are neuro-diverse all over the country. So that was the dream, to do a film where most of the crew were trained at the workshops. So, it’s very exciting.”
Carol of the Bells is good enough to become a regular holiday staple, nestling sweetly between A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life. It might just make your withered heart grow three sizes.
"…ensure that exploitation and manipulation are avoided."