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A Boy Called Christmas (PG)

Cast: Henry Lawfull, Dame Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Joel Fry, Isabella O'Sullivan
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Ol Parker, Gil Kenan
Director: Gil Kenan
Release Date: 26/11/2021 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 103mins
Country: UK/Fr
Year: 2021

Nikolas lives in a forest in Finland with his woodcutter father Joel. When the blustering king of the realm offers a handsome reward for proof that hope and wonder exist, Joel abandons his boy to join an expedition led by Anders the huntsman to the fabled land of elves. Nikolas begs to join the quest to no avail and he languishes at home with cruel Aunt Carlotta. A chance discovery of a map to Elfhelm sewn into the lining of a red hat propels Nikolas and pet mouse Miika on an epic odyssey.


LondonNet Film Review
A Boy Called Christmas(PG)

Tidings of comfort and joy overflow in director Gil Kenan’s rollicking adventure adapted by the director and Ol Parker from Matt Haig’s 2015 book. Employing the same framing device as The Princess Bride – an elderly relative (Dame Maggie Smith) regales initially sceptical moppets with an outlandish story that fires their imaginations and ultimately thaws their hearts – A Boy Called Christmas posits an alternative origin story for Santa Claus and the tradition of bestowing gifts at the closing of the year…

A life lesson about how to cope with bereavement (“Grief is the price we pay for love but worth it a million times over”) is laced with sugary sentimentality and magical flights of fantasy including a talking mouse who dreams of cheese and benevolent elves blessed with wish spells. Brisk pacing keeps the audience’s bells jingling through a couple of narrative lulls but the promise of a flying reindeer and Smith pursing her lips around choice one-liners in present-day sections staves off the threat of an early frost. Rising star Henry Lawfull exudes wide-eyed innocence as the plucky teenage hero, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after his prized possession – a doll carved from a turnip – suffers a most heinous fate.

He plays heartbroken urchin Nikolas, who lives in a forest in the middle of Finland with his woodcutter father Joel (Michiel Huisman). The hard-working parent believes that money will ease the grief of losing a wife. “Being good is better than being rich,” coos the boy. “If you’ve forgotten that, Papa, then you’ve forgotten Mama.” When the blustering king of the realm (Jim Broadbent) offers a handsome reward for proof that hope and wonder exist, Joel abandons his boy to join an expedition led by Anders the huntsman (Rune Temte) to the fabled land of elves.

Nikolas begs to join the quest but the child languishes at home in the company of cruel Aunt Carlotta (Kristen Wiig). A chance discovery of a map to Elfhelm sewn into the lining of a red hat propels Nikolas and pet mouse Miika (voiced by Stephen Merchant) on an epic odyssey. Trudging through a treacherous winter wonderland, the adventurers befriend an injured reindeer, which they christen Blitzen after the lake where Nikolas went sledging with his mother. Boy and mouse also encounter an elf elder (Toby Jones), his great-granddaughter Little Noosh (Indica Watson) and a mischievous Truth Pixie (Zoe Margaret Colletti).

A Boy Called Christmas is a wholesome and sweetly enjoyable prelude to the Yuletide festivities. Kenan and Parker’s script seesaws gently between humour and heartbreak, augmented with assured digital effects to bring colourful fairytale creatures to life such as a slobbering troll. Scares are mild, washed down with plentiful seasonal cheer.

– Sarah Lee


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