A rapidly-aging, senile, yet-still-defiant backyard inventor (Michael O’Brien) is spending his last Christmas on the frozen Canadian Western Prairies, far from his homeland 2500 miles East in Newfoundland, yearning for the Golden Age when his Viking Irish Ancestors ruled the seas, the skies, and their own destiny. ‘Old Mike’, who was always a thousand years ahead of his time and a hundred years behind the ‘real’ world, is fading away fast, fluctuating between semi-comatose periods of being ‘here’ and energy-infused stretches where he wears his Viking helmet, sings Wagner and has conversations with a stuffed bear head. His two-way discourses with ‘Winchester’ are about old WWII Yukon stories with his friend Pete, physics, philosophy and religion, particularly his ongoing arguments with God.
It’s a matter of distress for his ‘stay-at-home’ son Jack, a devout and obedient Catholic who was afraid to leave the homestead after his mother died a decade ago, staying on to take care of his father. But the real reason is that the lad was afraid to face the world outside his small Prairie town and the bosom of Mother Church. Mike’s other (and favorite) son, Jim, has ‘made it’ in the world as a lawyer in the big city of Toronto, or so he says in the very brief and highly infrequent phone calls back home. The cynical, atheistic and (by some definitions) immoral Jim is as terrified to return home as Jack is scared to leave the nest. But Jim DOES come home, to face his father, and the brother who he left in charge of the parents he loved, but could never really get close to. Old Man Mike’s final wish is to see his sons united again, but there are other things on his ‘must-do-before-I-die’ list.
Top item is to ride the winged bicycle that he built to enable human muscle to make man mobile in the skies, to relive at magical 37-second aerial flight he had 30 years ago with his buddy Pete. Pete’s ghost beckons him to come out his warm house into the frigid snow and go for one last ride, to fly up to the heavens and shake his fist at the Creator in anger, and shake His hand in friendship, according to the Viking vision of Valhalla, a place where everyone does battle during the day, ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ honoring each other at night at the Mead Hall with, of course, Newfoundland Screech (a rum that’s almost pure alcohol). But.when to take that final ride..?
As they have one last drink together, bonded more closely than ever, the camera pans out to a road sign outside the house reading “Entering Valhalla, population three”.
A Prairie-Christmas homecoming story with an edge, and metaphysical heart.
46 min. Christmas drama, Aired, CTV (Canada) 1989.paradoxically, the same week the Berlin Wall came down.