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Despite its flaws, “A Castle For Christmas” is a softly disarming, heartwarming, holiday-themed escapist that’s as gratifying as a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. The plot of director Mary Lambert’s rom-com is around a divorcee who, following a public meltdown, buys a castle in Scotland, meets a lovely duke, and rediscovers her creative vigor. Its heartfelt, idealistic thoughts about it never being too late to write your own second chapter feel really relevant, making up for its problems to pay off unrequited setups.
Sophie Brown (Brooke Shields) is a well-known rom-com author who has written a dozen books in the popular “Emma Gale” series. However, the acclaimed novelist has recently come under fire from her followers for killing off her protagonist’s love interest – a creative move inspired by her own traumatic divorce after her spouse left her for another woman. An on-air breakdown on “The Drew Barrymore Show” forces her to reconsider her creative goals and flee to Dun Dunbar, a little village in Scotland where her father was raised in a castle. Her father, the groundskeeper’s son, had a habit of recounting idealized stories about his youth, which inspired her future writing aspirations. She thinks that this journey will help her to reconnect with her family history while also allowing her to work anonymously. However, when Sophie arrives, she is welcomed with a slew of unexpected revelations.
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The townspeople not only know Sophie and unwaveringly support her efforts, but she also discovers that the enormous palace from her father’s youth is for sale. The only issue is that recalcitrant owner Myles (Cary Elwes), an antagonistic, cash-strapped duke, refuses to hand over the keys. He strikes a shady deal: a 90-day escrow that allows her to take immediate ownership as long as he continues to live there with her during that time, and if she backs out, his ownership is returned. The two come to an arrangement, but Myles is confident that he can get the new renter to leave the premises swiftly. He puts her in a filthy, decaying room and threatens her with property maintenance issues such as faulty heating, faulty plumbing, and substandard electrical work (which, incidentally, are things we never see become actual problems). Despite this, his plan to drive her away brings them closer together. Also, you must try to play this A Castle For Christmas Quiz.
Lambert, along with screenwriters Ally Carter and Kim Beyer-Johnson, infuses the film with heart, charm, and ebullience. Only when absolutely required are genre clichés used. Myles’ overly eager dog Hamish instigates Sophie and Myles’ meet-cute (played by Barley, a total ham). Internal tensions are prioritized when it comes to character motivation, which is never ambiguous. Their predictable squabble and third act “race to win her back” are well-earned. While their verbal sparring isn’t quite on par with other fast screwball comedies, the pair engages in amusing, healthy repartee that stars Elwes and Shields expertly handle.
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Those in Sophie’s inner circle — her knitter’s club — are given significant arcs that are carefully woven into the fabric of the film. Though the lively group leader Helen (Tina Gray) remains essentially unchanged, Angus (Stephen Oswald) is forced to confront his husband’s unresolved sadness. Innkeeper Maisie’s (Andi Osho) journey entails forgiving ex-boyfriend Thomas (Lee Ross), whilst Rhona’s (Eilidh Loan) journey entails embracing her free-spirited side.
The directors kept the genre’s trademark pranks and hijinks to an absolute minimum, which is both a blessing and a problem. It’s an approach that anchors the fantasy parts in reality while also tamping down some of the silliness that those absurd situations bring. External conflicts have been kept to a minimum. When it comes to producing an artistically gratifying novel or restoring the castle in time to re-establish the town’s traditional Christmas Eve ball and caretaker Myles’ upcoming departure, our protagonist faces little feeling of pressing urgency or rising adversity.