This Christmas Ad 'Will Leave You Staring Into the Abyss'

Mostly in a good way, though reaction is mixed to John Lewis & Partners' poignant holiday promo
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2022 6:20 PM CST
Updated Nov 10, 2022 8:00 PM CST

It's that time of year when Christmas ads start flooding the landscape, and some retailers are trying to take a "more muted approach" as people continue to struggle with inflation and the cost of necessities, reports the BBC. One promotion in particular, by the John Lewis & Partners department store chain in the UK, is especially catching people's attention, for both its moving message and the use of a song that some think is a little too dreary. In the 90-second spot called "The Beginner," a middle-aged man is seen doing regular middle-aged guy stuff, including working at a boring-looking job and helping his partner decorate their home for Christmas. In between the menial tasks, however, the guy is seen attempting to learn how to ride a skateboard, and it doesn't go terribly smoothly.

Finally, at the end of the ad, the big reveal is made: a young girl clutching a skateboard, his new foster daughter, is dropped off to him and his partner at their home—meaning he was trying to learn to skateboard so he could connect better with their new addition. "Over 108,000 children in the UK are in the care system," reads a final note across the screen. "This advert is not about 'go and buy things,'" a John Lewis representative tells the BBC. "This advert is about saying how can you as an individual show kindness to someone else who may need it." The ad has plucked the heartstrings of many viewers. "First time I've cried" at a Christmas ad, one commenter gushed. Mashable agrees, noting that the promotion "may be the most poignant thing you'll watch this year." Another writes: "Didn't expect to be crying at 9am but here we are."

Still, a bit of criticism has been trickling in, with some claiming the ad isn't as "Christmassy" as they'd like, while others aren't sure it's offering an accurate portrayal of how foster care works, per the BBC. Writing for the Guardian, Stuart Heritage has a more specific beef: He calls the ad "the most unapologetically depressing thing in human history," mostly thanks to the song that's playing in the background—a slowed-down, gloomy version of Blink-182's "All the Small Things," which Heritage notes "will leave you staring into the abyss" (hear the more upbeat original here). "I guarantee that people are going to have this song played at their funerals now, and their families will quietly sob the 'Na na na' bit under their breath as the curtains close around the coffin," he writes. "This is the most ambivalently depressed I have ever been, John Lewis, and it's all your fault." Listen and decide for yourself here. (More Christmas stories.)

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