Foster is a highly saccharine holiday film whose magic works best if you are completely invested in it. The movie is formulated to tug at heartstrings and tear ducts and does a masterful job. Those who don’t favor such patent emotional manipulation should look elsewhere for Christmas joy.

At the center is Eli (Maurice Cole), a bespeckled seven year old bundle of wisdom. He is sent from a foster agency to childless couple Zooey (Toni Collette) and Alec (Ioan Gruffudd) on short notice and under strange conditions. They’re not quite sure what to do with this kid who dresses in a suit, watches CNN, and speaks like he’s mastered an SAT vocabulary list. Nevertheless, Zooey finds his oddities charming, and she takes to him more easily than her husband. Collette and Cole share a sparkling chemistry that makes their characters’ relationship joyful and heartwarming.

For Alec, however, the thought of an “instant family” is disarming. Besides dealing with the changes that Eli brings, he also finds himself in a serious financial crisis. The family owned toy company that his father started is in danger of going under thanks to big box corporations and fancy electronic gadgets. He desperately needs a miracle if he’s going to save his company, his house, and his marriage.

And how timely is Eli’s arrival. He helps his foster parents in more ways than they know. Besides their money woes, the couple’s relationship has stalled after a life-changing accident a few years back. A cheeky seven year old is not the first person you’d choose to help in the healing process, but this is Christmas, snowflakes are fluttering about, and things are not as they seem.

The film is misleading in that it’s not about fostering – and even when it is, it sends a questionable message about whose needs are being satisfied. But the world this new family inhabits is one of holiday fancy, where troubles are brushed away and everything is refreshed with a glossy finish. If little Eli doesn’t annoy you with his mini-adult persona, then he will convince you that loving, here and now, goes a long way.

Watch the trailer if you want to know everything that happens:

Alt Title: Christmas Angel in the House; Angel in the House
Prod: Deepak Nayar, Alice Dawson, David Mutch
Dir: Jonathan Newman
Writer: Jonathan Newman
Cast: Toni Collette, Ioan Gruffudd, Maurice Cole, Hayley Mills, Richard E. Grant
Time: 90 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2014