Your Christmas or Mine is like a hot chocolate at a German-style Christmas market: it might be verging a little bit too sweet, but is something that definitely warms the insides and gives you that cuddly, cosy, Christmassy feeling.
The film’s premise — a young, idealistic university couple who end up trapped at each others’ homes for Christmas after a romantic surprise went wrong — has all the familiarities, miscommunications, and hijinks that you’d expect from a Christmas movie, but at the same time, its execution feels fresh and quintessentially British.
Sex Education star Asa Butterfield plays James, your typical uni posho who probably wore a suit to lectures while newcomer, Cora Kirk, plays Hayley: a happy-go-lucky, idealistic young woman from a working-class family in Macclesfield.
As someone whose been acting since pretty much the cradle, Butterfield gives a convincing performance as pompous, awkward, but loveable James. For fans of Sex Education, it’s easy to compare the character to Otis: but James has a level of confidence and maturity that comes with being in his 20s — and is also oblivious enough to say things like “gilet” unironically.
Although the pair don’t share many scenes, his chemistry with Hayley (Cora Kirk) feels natural from the outset — and while Kirk herself is somewhat of a newcomer to the big screen, her natural warmth, likeability, and charm as Hayley mean she fits in seamlessly with the rest of the star-studded cast — and in terms of acting, proves to be more than capable of holding her own.
All of the cast members fit the character briefs set out in this Amazon Prime Christmas movie to a T: ranging from Angela Griffin as the loving but neurotic mother, David Bradley as the scary mountain man, and Daniel Mays as the roguish but loveable geezer who sells frozen turkeys out of an ice cream van.
As Mays said himself in an interview with The Digital Fix, his character Geoff is a bit “rough round the edges” — but this synthesises perfectly with his comedic timing and his position as the haywire-but-loving patriarch of Hayley’s family. Hayley’s family might not be as prim and proper as James’s, but they share a good-natured camaraderie and chaos that anyone who lives in a big family will instantly find familiarity in.
Led by Mays, their embarrassing jumpers, cutting quips, tendency to get a little too drunk, and unique Christmas traditions are both entertaining and comforting, as the whole family pile heaps of that good-natured but snarky British humour on your plate like a second serving of turkey. Mays provides the majority of the funny moments, acting as the comic relief of the film, but along with Butterfield and Kirk, also provides a heart to the festive caper.
Oftentimes, dead parents are used as an all-to-convenient plot device to try and humanise an otherwise one-dimensional character, but in Your Christmas or Mine, discussions of grief and how to process it are handled, for the most part, with a rare sensitivity that acknowledges the impact a profound loss can have on your Christmas.
The comedy movie is all tied neatly into a 95-minute bow, which is a nice change of pace from the three-hour movie marathons that seem to have become the norm — but, dare I say it, I think this film’s slim runtime comes at a bit of a cost in terms of character development and pacing.
For instance, while James’s growing bond with Hayley’s family felt like a natural progression, it would’ve been nice to see a little more of uber-dickhead Steve (Lucien Laviscout), who in his brief appearance strikes the perfect amount of smarminess and frustration that make him the ideal movie villain for a film like this.
Hayley’s relationship with James’s father, Humphrey (Alex Jennings), could have used a little bit more development too before his predictable change-of-heart, although this is compensated by the fact that Kirk and Harriet Walter are able to quickly build a believable bond between Hayley and Iris: Humphrey’s housekeeper.
There’s also the troublesome dog Peanut and bit parts by Mark Heap and David Bradley that help to pack this fairly thin B-plot with a few more laughs — but it’s clear Hayley’s family is the more developed plot line.
Ultimately, as a first-time screenplay by comedian Tom Parry, Your Christmas or Mine not only hits all the essential rom-com sweet spots but also is a lot better than you’d usually expect such a movie to be.
With a strong cast, schmaltzy story, and plentiful sarcasm and awkward moments, it has all the makings of a modern festive classic that you can return to year after year.
Your Christmas or Mine is available on the streaming service Amazon Prime Video from December 2.
Your Christmas or Mine review
While some parts are a little undercooked, it’s still a delicious Christmas feast.