Film & TV

Film Review: A Boy Called Christmas

A wholly different take on the origin of Christmas, as a story told by Maggie Smith – a unique start to the Christmas season.

With a nod to The Princess Bride (amongst other “storytelling” films), A Boy Called Christmas starts with a newly bereaved family, where the kids are complaining about having to be babysat by their Aunt Ruth (the fabulous Maggie Smith) as their father heads off to work.  The kids are not in the mood for Christmas, or their scary old aunt, as they are still processing the grief after their mother passed away.  Aunt Ruth decides to tell them a story to pass the time and get them in the Christmas spirit – the story of a boy called Christmas.  Well, he’s actually named Nicholas, but anyway…

Nicholas (Henry Lawfull) lives in Finland with his father Joel (Michiel Huisman), in a poor hut.  Nicholas’ mother passed away when he was younger, too.  Nicholas and his father are very close, so even though it’s cold, even though many of the country are hungry, Nicholas is still content.  He has even started domesticating a mouse as pet, trying to teach him English.

Not many in the country are happy, however. People are hungry and just plodding by, so the king (Jim Broadbent, who makes a fabulous king) calls a group of villagers to meet with him in his palace to say that what this country has lost is its sense of fun, of hope.  He sets them a quest to find that hope and then they will be rewarded. 

Joel decides to leave Nicholas with his Aunt Charlotte and go with his friends to find the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm.  He knows it exists, as his wife, Nicholas’ mother, visited there once and talked about it ever since.

Nicholas is devastated.  His aunt is a horror and one day as he is suffering with his aunt, he discovers a clue to Elfhelm.  Inspired, he packs up his bag and his pet mouse to catch up with his father, and so the magical journey begins.

He soon discovers that all his hard work has paid off – his pet mouse, Miika, has learned to talk!  Nicholas now has a friend on his journey, and later he also saves a reindeer, who also becomes his friend on the journey.  With this help, he does eventually find Elfhelm, but it is not as it used to be, with the new queen acting as a despot “for everyone’s own good”.  Nicholas finds a group of resistants and accidentally becomes part of that resistance.

Further along, there are some more sad scenes, including another death, so take your tissues and be prepared.  The colours, the bright red and white icy snows, are just spectacular, not to mention the scenery.

The movie is based on a 2015 children’s book of the same title by UK author Matt Haig, the first in a series of Christmas books he has written, as well as numerous others for children and adults.  His books have topped the bestseller lists in the UK and it would be interesting to see how different, if at all, the movie is from the book.

Ms5, Mr9 & Ms 12 LOVED the talking mouse!  He was one of their highlights, and has some great one-liners and commentary.  We did think it had a few too many storylines for younger kids, as there was the storytelling, Nicholas’ journey, the elf rebellion, his father’s journey, all at the same time and is 1hr46m long.  And Ms 12, with our family’s typical dark sense of humour, and slightly tongue in cheek, said “Probably a bit much death in it for a kid’s film, though.”  Then again, she was thrilled to see Harry Potter actors Jim Broadbent and Maggie Smith in this. All in all, we did enjoy it, with all three kids engaged throughout and we chatted about it afterwards for a fair while.  A wholly different take on the origin of Christmas, as a story told by Maggie Smith – a totally unique start to the Christmas season!

Charming and Christmassy 3.5 stars

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