Your Christmas or Mine? (Review) – A Feature-Length Festive Sitcom

DIRECTOR: Jim O’Hanlon

CAST: Asa Butterfield, Cora Kirk, Daniel Mays, Angela Griffin, Harriet Walter, David Bradley, Natalie Gumede, Alex Jennings, Lucien Laviscount, Ram John Holder, Mark Heap

RUNNING TIME: 95 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: A young couple (Butterfield and Kirk) wind up at each other’s family homes for Christmas…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

As with every year presumably until the end of time, the likes of Netflix, Hallmark, Lifetime and dozens of other companies are making and releasing batches upon batches of cookie-cutter Christmas movies, many of which are silly to the extreme, and embrace their blatant manufactured nature almost to a fault. Now, it seems that Amazon is throwing its Santa hat into that ring, by releasing via Prime Video its own twee and overly festive offering Your Christmas or Mine?, which certainly seems to have a slightly larger budget than a lot of the typical ones by those other companies (for one, there are actual recognisable actors that pop up in this one), but has just as much Yuletide ridiculousness to rival its biggest competitors.

Beginning very promptly (literally, for as soon as the opening Amazon logo pops in and out, we’re straight in to the opening credits) on Christmas Eve Eve – for the uninitiated, December the 23rd – young student couple James (Asa Butterfield) and Hayley (Cora Kirk) are departing for their respective family Christmases. The two are fairly new into their relationship, and as such can’t bear to be without each other for too long, so they individually hatch the idea to surprise each other by showing up to their family homes unannounced for the holiday season. Unfortunately, that means they switch onto each other’s trains, leaving James stranded with Hayley’s dysfunctional working-class family, and Hayley discovering that not only does he come from serious wealth and power, but that his cold-hearted father Humphrey (Alex Jennings) is none other than the Earl of Gloucester. Both attempt to keep their relationship a secret from each other’s families, but as awkward tensions threaten to bubble over, James and Hayley begin to realise that they don’t know each other as well as they thought they did.

It’s a plot and, at times, an execution that seems like it’s come straight out of the Hallmark Christmas movie rulebook. Everything you could possibly expect is here: romance, snow, stately manors, tinsel and decorations as far as the eye can see, and a soundtrack made up of pop variations on classic songs, among many others. Seriously, all that’s missing is the oddly specific red-and-green colour scheme in each and every scene, as was the case in Netflix’s recent Falling for Christmas. However, Your Christmas or Mine? obviously has more money to work with than a typical Hallmark movie (how else could it afford to have the likes of Asa Butterfield, Daniel Mays, Harriet Walter, Alex Jennings, and even David Bradley fill a number of its lead and supporting roles?), so it undoubtedly has slightly better production values, which makes some of the usual corniness in this kind of movie somehow stick out even more amidst the larger budget. There are some earnest performances by the likes of Butterfield, Mays and Jennings – not to mention a breakout turn by charming co-lead Cora Kirk – which end up contrasting greatly with the sitcom-style writing where you can feel the pause for audience laughter after every silly gag, and it makes things more eye-rolling than endearing.

Calling the writing akin to a sitcom is accurate, because it more or less is a sitcom, with a premise that just about fills a half-hour episode stretched out to triple the length, and characters who act and talk exactly like they’re being watched by a studio audience. There will also be plenty of contrivances that only exist to further the plot, just as they would on an episode of, say, Fawlty Towers; a character loses their phone, hence why they cannot be reached to clarify certain things, while a slightly more believable scenario sees all the trains being cancelled on Christmas Eve due to adverse weather conditions, stranding both our leads even more. Most notably, though, the film offers very few genuine dramatic stakes, and even then they are easily resolved like it’s, once again, an episode of a sitcom. We don’t spend enough time seeing Butterfield and Kirk together, so we can’t get an entire read on their relationship before their fateful decisions, and more importantly little has been established between them that we don’t know why we’re supposed to root for them to stay together. The arcs that supporting characters go through also feel like they would have come to their logical conclusions even without the interventions of the two leads, so really you’re just watching a series of awkward events working out just fine in their own natural ways, without so much as a dramatic hook for viewers to latch on to.

If something silly and light-hearted is all you really want to watch for Christmas, then don’t let me dump cold snow over your desire to see this, but know that there are similarly-themed movies out there as well which are slightly more endearing and hilarious (albeit unintentionally, most of the time) to watch than Your Christmas or Mine?, which simply is what it is except not quite as ridiculous as it could have been.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Your Christmas or Mine? attempts to embrace the trademark silliness and light-heartedness of similar festive movies by the likes of Hallmark or Netflix, but despite some charming performances it’s mostly an eyeroll-inducing extended sitcom with few stakes and even fewer genuine laughs.

Your Christmas or Mine? is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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