Hey, did you know when all the milk spills on the table Kevin’s plane ticket gets thrown out?
Yes. That’s the big one from the last couple years. But this year is when my six year old son discovered Home Alone. He loves every bit of it. The kids being rude to each other, the pranks, the pretty Christmas stuff, all of it. We’ve watched it a couple times this season. Thanks to repeat watching, I’m seeing things I hadn’t before. There’s a lot more to this movie than just the surface story of beating up burglars.
One of the biggest revelations as an adult viewer is what the character of the neighbor brings to the movie. A character in a Christmas movie with the last name Marley.
No physical chains exist on this Marley but he is weighed down by his past decisions. Marley plays all the spirits in this moppet version of A Christmas Carol.
In his first appearance he is heard before seen. Much like Scrooge could hear the chains rattling closer up the stairs. Kevin, his brother, and his cousin, hear the scraping from outside. It’s a frightening sound and Buzz creates the shovel murder urban legend on the spot. An ominous foreshadowing of the scary time ahead for Kevin.
Kevin gets scared by Harry and Marv the first time and after hiding under the bed, he pumps himself up and marches outside. Exclaiming, “I’m not afraid!” Then a shadow is cast over him and there’s the Old Man standing beside him. Kevin screams and runs away in horror. As much as he wants to believe he is strong, this previously known fear, this ghost of the past, still overwhelms him. Kevin spends the rest of the night hiding under that same bed.
Later, Kevin attempts to buy a toothbrush. He sees how the rest of his town is experiencing the day. Shopping for presents, ice skating, having a great time during Christmas break. While waiting to find out if the toothbrush is approved by the ADA, Old Man Marley appears next to him. Kevin is motivated by fear again. In this moment where he could ask for help, he is paralyzed. He could have told someone he was alone. He could have asked for help. He could have told someone about the burglars. Any number of things. But what he thinks is true of the past cause him to run away from the present and away from the chance to change.
Finally, Kevin is at church hoping to find some answers to everything he has gone through in a couple days. Loneliness, evil, shopping bags that tear, all of it. Marley gets up from his seat and takes a spot next to Kevin. Through their conversation both the old man and the boy learn a lot about each other and are given much to think of. Kevin sees the Old Man as alone on Christmas but with the option to do something about it. Marley can call his son, Kevin as far as he knows has no family to call. He wished them all away. He is seeing his own future through Marley. A future of being alone on Christmas.
Marley and Kevin wave at each other at the end of the movie. Kevin’s family is home. Marley’s son’s family have come over. All appears to be forgiven and God bless us, everyone.
But Marley makes one other appearance in the movie. One that doesn’t fall into A Christmas Story, but one that does fall into a story that began on Christmas and ended on Easter. The Greatest Story Ever Told.
In his second to last appearance in the film, Marley shows up to rescue Kevin. Maybe he sees Kevin as a son, a grandson figure. Who knows if he was watching everything out his own window, or just has some sort of omnipotent eye. All that we do know is this wise old spiritual figure saved the day when our younger hero was hung up between two criminals.
One reference might be a stretch but paired with the implied stigmata, the veiled references to Christianity are in this movie. To go back to Marley startling Kevin in the store, his hand holds Kevin’s gaze. Bloody and wrapped in cloth. Marley is buying bandages but it is clear he has just experienced some sort of pain. A wound through his hand.
In the church, Kevin and Marley shake hands when they part ways. The same injured hand now only sports an adhesive bandage. A great amount of healing has taken place in a day. Though not as much as one day later. When Kevin and Marley wave across their lots and there is no bandage to be seen.
What once seemed mysterious and frightening has now become familiar. If not loved, at least respected. Understood. Much like the furnace in the basement was terrifying but Kevin mustered the courage to do laundry and conquered that fear. All of the pipes and gate seem huge and horrifying at first. Then later it’s just there. Much like Marley’s hand. Horribly scary at first but through familiarity becomes less and less so.
Kevin found through this older presence a path to growth. Physical, familial, even spiritual.
It’s just too bad his family is kind of awful.