A CASTLE FOR CHRISTMAS. (2021) DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING BROOKE SHIELDS, CARY ELWES, LEE ROSS AND DREW BARRYMORE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I loved this schmaltzy Christmas romantic comedy, even if there’s enough cheese and corn in it to feed a family of five for a year. I love Cary Elwes- who the hell doesn’t?- and I have no objections to Brooke Shields, whom I’d only ever seen in THE BLUE LAGOON, her 1980 film. (No, I’ve never seen Pretty Baby, her controversial 1978 film, though I’d like to, it’s meant to be good! Oooops, just heard it’s been ‘cancelled,’ I’m obviously too late!) Both stars are now well into their fifties and still looking absolutely fantastic, and that’s no word of a lie.
I love Brooke as Sophie Brown, a bestselling American author and newly-divorced mother of a daughter in college, Lexi. Sophie flees alone from the US to the wilds of Scotland at the start of the film, in order to escape the furore that occurs when she kills off the heroine’s boyfriend in her latest in a series of romance books.
It’s a bit like in Stephen King’s terrifying book MISERY, when Jaames Caan- yes, I intentionally put two ‘a’s in his forename as well as his surname, lol, it’s got more balance that way!- kills off the character of Misery Chastaine in his series of MISERY books. Now, if he’d had the sense to high-tail it to Bonnie Scotland straight after he’d done this terrible ‘murder’ of a beloved fictional character, he might be walking straight on his two hind legs today, so think on’t…!
Anyway, Sophie doesn’t just select a destination randomly by sticking a pin in a map. She chooses Scotland because her late father’s ancestral village is there. Apparently, he used to work as groundskeeper (Willie?!) for one of the Dukes in the castle of Dun Dunbar, an estate near the village. She flies there hoping to recapture some of that old childhood magic.
What happens is that she immediately falls in love with the village, the non-stop-knitting and surprisingly ‘woke’ villagers, the fabulous castle of Dun Dunbar and, also, its grumpy fecker of a laird in the form of one Myles Dunbar, played by the still blonde and still trim Cary Elwes.
They have one of those relationships where they get off to a terrible start and hate each other’s guts, but then they fall in love and they fall really, really hard for each other. Sophie thinks Myles is arrogant and rude and up himself- he is!- and Myles sees Sophie as some rich Yank who swans in with all her ideas and her money and her American-ness and starts taking over everything. You can’t really blame him for this.
As he says himself, Sophie really is everywhere, all of a sudden. She’s buying the castle from him because she loves it, and he hasn’t much choice in the matter as he’s stony-broke and he just can’t afford the upkeep any longer. She’s a firm favourite with the villagers, who all read her books and are thrilled to have her here in their twee little village. They teach her to knit and everything, for goodness’ sake.
Myles’ best friend, Thomas, who also helps him keep the castle afloat by running tours and operating the gift shop, thinks that Myles has been alone too long and that Sophie would be great for him. Even Hamish, Myles’s adorable woof-woof, is dizzy with love for Sophie. This could be the romance of the century, but naturally there’ll be a few flies in the ointment to sort out first. The course of true love and all that…
If you like men in kilts and loads of unoffensive Scottish slang, you’ll love this film. No-one says ‘och aye’ in it, though, strangely enough, and that’s the most Scottish phrase I know. If you love beautiful woods and snow-capped trees and fabulous Christmas decorations and lights, you’ll go crazy for this film, because it’s genuinely gorgeous and festive to look at.
I love that the couple, no longer in the first flush of youth, are so awkward and nervous about dating again after being out of the game for so long; it’s really sweet. I love that Sophie bravely decides to change direction with her books and write the one that means the most to her at this point in time. Drew Barrymore as ‘Herself’ is a little scary-looking. Has she had some work done? And is it okay to still ask that? I don’t want to be ‘cancelled’ too, lol.
I didn’t like the suggestion that the laird of the manor, the something-th Earl of Dunbar, is somehow better than the villagers because he lives on a big estate in a big fancy house and they rent their much smaller homes from him.
He’s only the Earl by an accident of birth. He is not better than the villagers because he lives in a bigger house, keeps himself aloof from them and has a Great Hall in which to hold parties. Am I allowed to say that, even? God Almighty, it’s tough being a writer in these ultra-politically correct times.
Myles seems to have kept himself remote from the villagers for this last while, and he’s mortified to suddenly become the centre of attention because of Sophie and their great romance, which has all the villagers tickled pink. The film is heart-warming and ‘feel-good’ to the nth degree, though it might be too soppy for some folks’ taste.
There are some massive plot-holes, of course, and there’s some really strange editing involved. This isn’t CITIZEN KANE. And I’m really disturbed as to the fate of one couple, the Donatellis, who appear in the film briefly, asking for a room at the village inn. Their scene seems as if it might be portentous, important, significant, meaningful even, but then, after this one scene, they literally never appear again.
Did something ominous happen to them, inside the world of the film? Were they kidnapped for ransom? Have they been abducted by aliens? Are they still alive, even? If you have any information at all as to the fate of this poor, poor couple, who, after all, only wanted a bed for the night at Christmas-time, then please, for the love of puppies, contact your nearest police station. There might still be time to save them.
Wait a minute. A poor couple, who only wanted a bed for the night at Christmas-time? Where have I heard of that situation before? A thought is coming to me, it’s not here yet, not here yet. Oh yes. It’s here. Here it is. Oh yeah. I forgot to buy sprouts. Happy Christmas…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: