Weird north-of-the-Planet humour wherein this was slated as a Children's Movie - I cried practically throughout the whole film- personally I would have rated it an R or X - for the emotional distress and only for mature audiences! Mind you it seemed I was the only one in the sparsely-attended session to feel this way. They seemed to have bussed in 10 Muslim girls - meant to ask if they were from an orphanage but was too embarrassed to be seen as so emotional so stalked out hurriedly at the end of the movie! It started 15 minutes late, and it seemed another set of orphans were bussed in just after the lights were turned off and they had to stumble through in the dark. Maybe Guyanese parents were savvy enough to protect their children but I don't think so-- after complaining there's no-where to take children inevitably whenever there is - there is little interest.
Anyway, the opening scene is little (5-6yr old) Nickolas's younger/baby sister is running a fever in the middle of Christmas Eve night and his parents wake him to say they are taking her to the doctor but would be back before the morning and will take a short-cut over the Ice and the last words of his mother was to finish the carving for his Baby sister (Nice choice for mother's Day EU!). Next scene - a villager is at the house telling Nicholas on Christmas Day that his parents fell through the Ice and died with his sister; later on at the village council with him present, it is decided that as everyone is so poor themselves different families would look after him for a year - the day he changes residences being Christmas Day. Isaac, the presumably Jewish, travelling salesman suggests throwing him in the Lake after his parents. So he gets to become acquainted with all the children in the village and carves them a wooden toy and leaves it on the doorstep every Christmas. After the sixth year, tragedy hits the Village - the crops fail and there is very little fish to be found in the Lake. No family wants to take in Nicholas and he relates this to Isaac who wonders why no-one is buying anything for Christmas-- he sees Nicholas' carving and decides to take him in as an apprentice-- setting the boundaries with the re-naming of Master and Brat respectively. Nicholas proves to be a keen and adaptable lad and snucks into the Workshop at nights to continue carving toys for the children of the village using the discarded Wood. Isaac discovers his secret and grudgingly helps him- at the Lake where Nicholas drops in a gift for his dead sister - Isaac tells him that he lost his wife and his sons ran away to join the Navy-- after which Nicholas shacks up with Isaac until Isaac gets old and sends for his sons. They come and he leaves with them-- he then leaves all his possessions, including the Workshop and his Life-savings for Nicholas who just lives for Christmas!
He is helped by his childhood's friend's daughter until he gets very old and then he disappears. Very morbid.