Netflix keeps pouring these Christmas movies at a non-stop pace. It is really incredible to see how Netflix has become basically an entity as big, if not bigger, than the classic major studios. There have been at least thirty new Christmas films released only this year, and December is just beginning, so expect to see many more on the Netflix recommendation section. A Castle for Christmas is just one of these offerings, and while charming in its own right, it doesn’t really push for anything new. Nothing new at all.
A Castle For Christmas is directed by Mary Lambert and stars Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes. The film tells the story of Sophie, a bestselling author who, after suffering from a scandal, decides to travel to Scotland to connect with her family roots and find some needed inspiration for her next novel. On the way, she will encounter a number of colorful characters and an arrogant Duke that is the owner of the castle of her dreams.
A Castle For Christmas follows the typical formula of “enemies to lovers” where the unexpected couple meets, and they really hate each other at first sight. Only to find out they have much more in common than they thought. This formula has been used since the moment the genre of romantic comedies came into being. It works, sure, but A Castle for Christmas follows it so much to the teeth that there isn’t any room for discovery or to set up surprises. From the moment Sophie meets the Duke, we as an audience know exactly what will be the outcome of this story.
The thing is that it all depends on the kind of audience that is watching this kind of movie. This hallmark type of filmmaking doesn’t look to teach, amuse, excite, or give any food for thought. Actually, these movies work mostly as a pastime where audiences can sit down, shut their brains and just relax watching something that is comfortable and familiar.
Familiarity is a very powerful feeling, especially during this time of the year. Familiarity will send audiences on a journey of nostalgia, and for some people that is all they need when watching a Christmas movie, something that reminds you of home and fills your brain with happy thoughts.
But for the other type of audience, the audience that wants to be challenged and wants to take something from their time investment, there couldn’t be a worse movie than this. Totally forgettable and empty from the theme, and exciting food for thought.
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From a technical point of view, the film suffers from the same kind of problems as other films of the same type. The biggest of these offenses is that almost every shot in the movie is overlit. The filmmakers seem to be afraid of shadows, and their existence on any frame from the movie is unacceptable. Sometimes the set also looks very fake, which may add to the campy atmosphere of the film or detract completely from the immersive experience a film should be.
Outside these challenges, the film is well shot, and the camera work is efficient. It is clear this type of movie is not made with a lot of budget or time involved, so the team are doing the best they can with their available resources.
The biggest highlight of the movie are, of course, its stars. Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes were both huge stars in the 80s, and some of their old movies are still remembered fondly by audiences around the world. Elwes’ The Princess Bride is a modern classic, which has managed to maintain its image in people’s minds for decades. Shields is quite charming, and this quality allows her to slip into a character that is both elegant and high class, and also a bit raunchy. Elwes on the other hand manages to pull off a heavy Scottish accent that will make you laugh in each scene.
At the end, the actors just have to be themselves for the story to work. So don’t expect to see high caliber acting here. This movie doesn’t need that. The climax of the story arrives exactly when you expect it, and it develops in an expected way as well. Maybe, that’s how these movies should be, and expecting any sort of evolution is fruitless.
A Castle for Christmas is only for the hardcore fans of the genre or those who want to watch something that doesn’t really ask a lot of themselves. These movies have their audience, but not even their audiences will be able to remember them minutes from watching.