A Castle for Christmas Review: Christmas Romance does the right thing
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Christmas rom-com genre has the most overwhelming catalog of movies out there. With enough titles to fill the Library of Congress multiple times, it’s virtually impossible for new entries in the category to find even an inch of new thematic or narrative ground to cover. Its success-to-failure ratio is also, unsurprisingly, surprisingly unbalanced. Sometimes, however, a Christmas miracle presents itself and a brave and inspired filmmaker dives headfirst into the perilous genre and manages to clinch the gold.
This year that director was Mary Lambert – yes, the visionary behind the iconic 1989 horror film. Pet Sematist (and Pet Sematary Two, of cours). His Christmas movie? specific to Netflix A castle for Christmas. The film follows acclaimed American author Sophie Brown (Brooke Shields) who flies to Scotland after being semi-canceled for killing her beloved protagonist in her series. There, she falls in love with a great Scottish castle called Dun Dunbar, where her grandfather was a gardener, and buys it (because why not?). To make matters delightfully complicated, the property is owned by both handsome and frosty Duke Myles (Cary Elwes), and Sophie can only own a home once she has proven she can handle the upkeep. Oh yes, that means sharing a living space with Mr. Saucy Duke himself.
Of course, this plot is not really revolutionary. For starters, it turns out that Christmas movies involving royalty are very popular: My christmas prince, Christmas with a prince, A princess for Christmas, A Christmas princess… you got the idea. And Lambert and the editorial staff Kim Beyer-Johnson, Ally Carter, Neal H. Dobrofsky, and Tippy Dobrofsky, are doing nothing new by revisiting the “we-hate-the-guts-but-also-secretly-love-format. for each other. A castle for Christmas largely succeeds precisely because he examines this formula approved by the public with such ardor and seriousness. So when the unrealistic – but very entertaining – conflict kicks in, it works because the general electricity of the movie brings us to to believe that everyone in this world really, really, really cares about Christmas more than anything else and, unless you’re a total cranky, the power of the holidays makes just about anything possible. We’re never made to believe anything other that a magical romance just in time for Christmas is around the corner, but in A castle for Christmas, this predictability is heartwarming.
Much of the film’s Christmas legwork is done by Sophie and Myles. As soon as they meet, their dynamic is captivating. This is due, in large part, to the surprising but inspired cast. Shields plays Sophie as naturally sweet, sophisticated, and disarming, while Elwes is an adorable cranky (albeit his Scottish accent leaves something to be desired) and, yes, he still possesses the same qualities. The princess to marry 30 years later. It’s all the more gratifying that they finally let go of these inhospitable walls. (I’ll note, however, that it also makes it a bit disappointing that there are a lot more bickering scenes than romantic ones.)
Of course, sometimes the formula doesn’t work in the film’s favor. Its sterile and overproduced appearance – typical of Christmas movies (especially of the Hallmark variety) – detracts from its human and pleasant atmosphere. When we first meet a group of people in the Scottish inn where Sophie is settling for the first time, the scene is distractingly clear; Looks like someone forgot to dim a fully amplified LED light. It hardens the movie fantasy of a warm and bright Christmas, as does the pristine interior of the castle, which looks a bit too much like a set. For the most part, the shots are framed in an equally clean and sterile manner. It’s especially frustrating because the film was shot not on set, but on location in and around Barnbougle Castle in South Queensferry, Scotland. Yet there are many times the choice to shoot in place turns out to be an inspired choice: when Sophie ventures out of the landscape, the shots are often truly exquisite, with panoramic aerial shots that take you away from the landscape. show the vastness of Scotland and images of ruined castles that make us part of the country’s history. These almost give us the impression of having made the trip alongside Sophie. (The real Scottish actors are also contributing.)
And then there are times when A castle for Christmas totally defies expectations. It is quite rare to see a love story that revolves around a couple over the age of 50, especially when their age is not used as some sort of intrigue. It’s totally refreshing, but never draws attention to itself. Sophie’s friends also defy the expectations of romantic comedies: these films will more often than not give you a quirky bestie, but the woman Sophie hooks up with, Maisie (Andi Osho) doesn’t simply exist as a foil for our protagonist. She doesn’t try to convince Sophie to be with Myles at any cost. Instead, she’s smart and thoughtful. She even has her own love story, which seems to have been crafted for the sole purpose of being interesting in and of itself.
In his unabashedly fondness for the tropes, stellar cast, idyllic locations, and the occasional off-the-beaten-path adventures, A castle for Christmas does something totally underestimated: it gives us exactly what we want this holiday season. Even the film’s curmudgeon, Myles, is able to find joy in the occasion. I would be surprised if this was not the case with the film’s most cynical viewers as well.
Director: Marie lambert
Writers: Kim Beyer-Johnson, Ally Carter, Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippy Dobrofsky
Stars: Brooke Shields, Cary Elwes, Lee Ross, Andi Osho, Tina Gray, Eilidh Loan, Stephen Oswald
Release date: November 26, 2021 (Netflix)
Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate advocate for Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for his last questionable culture takes.