Christmas movies are so hard to get right, especially when it comes to pleasing a committed Scrooge like me. Much of what passes for festive fare turns out to be inane, tinsel-adorned tat, often built around some available musical output. 2019’s Last Christmas springs immediately to mind. Pitched as a tribute to the late George Michael, it is a big dollop of vacuous candy floss. So I approach this film with some trepidation, noting that it barely registered at cinemas across the UK on its recent release – but a combination of ill-health and freezing weather conditions prompt me to take a gamble on it. I’m glad I do.
Your Christmas or Mine? (terrible title) is written by comedian Tom Parry and directed by Jim O’ Hanlon. James (Asa Butterfield) and Hayley (Cora Kirk) are young drama students in the throes of a heady romance. We first meet them at a busy railway station, where they are preparing to head off to their respective family homes to spend Christmas on different sides of the North/South divide. But, at the last moment, James experiences a sudden overpowering longing to spend more time with Hayley. He jumps off his train, changes platforms and scrambles aboard her service, seconds before it leaves the station.
Unfortunately, Hayley has had the very same idea…
After a sudden snowfall, the twosome find themselves marooned in unfamiliar locations and obliged to spend Christmas with their partner’s families. Once I’ve accepted this unlikely event, things rapidly get more interesting, as James and Hayley realise that neither of them has been entirely truthful. Why does James’ dad, Humphrey (Alex Jennings) hate Christmas so much? Why is Hayley’s dad (Daniel Mays) so obsessed with turduckens? And… who the hell is Hubert?
Parry’s culture-clash comedy sparkles with delightful dialogue, manic misunderstandings and riveting revelations, while the two central characters’ escapades are pitched just on the right side of believability. There’s a poignant explanation for Humphrey’s Scrooge-like persona that unexpectedly gives my tear ducts a bit of a workout; the two leads are immensely likeable, and there are cameos by excellent character actors (Mark Heap, Harriet Walter and David Bradley, to name but three.) Best of all, there are a couple of surprises I genuinely don’t see coming.
Your Christmas or Mine? is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and, after witnessing some real festive stinkers in recent years, that’s something to be thankful for. If asked for a Christmas movie recommendation this year, I’m happy to go with this.
Or Die Hard. It’s a tough call.