We all have the guilty indulgence of watching those syrupy sweet Hallmark Holiday Movies of which there is a never ending supply. But if you are tired of the same scenarios, the predictable plots and the sweetly dull characters where here three European selections plus one American.
1. The 2019 Norwegian Netflix series Home for Christmas (Hjem til jul) directed by Per-Olav Sørensen, does contain the classic trope of an unmarried 30 year old woman, Johanne played by Ida Elise Broch, who goes on a mission to find a boyfriend by Christmas so her family will stop nagging her. But it is nothing like the simplified Hollywood style stories we are used to. The show is quirky and funny, and our heroine has many unique and crazy dating experiences in her quest to find love ranging from speed dating to internet dating and going out with a much younger and much older man. Season 1 ended with a cliff hanger, but good news Season 2 is out December 18 so you can watch both back to back!
2. Over Christmas (Über Weihnachten) is a 2020 short three episode German series on Netflix (so you won’t feel too guilty binging in one sitting!). It tells the tale of Bastian, played by German comedian Luke Mockridge, who is living in Berlin as a struggling musician, broke and still not over his girlfriend. He returns home to the town where several secrets are revealed. Although not quite Hallmark, it definitely falls into the category of a sugary and wraps up tidy and sweet, but there are some very comedic moments generally if you are looking for a nice romantic comedy this will fit the bill. And it has a great soundtrack!
3. Directed by Arnaud Desplechin, the 2008 French A Christmas Tale (Conte de Nöel ) is a bittersweet, dark comedy. If you are looking for something light and sentimental this is not it. But if you want a movie that plunges into the realities of dying and dysfunctional family dynamics with wit and humor this is for you. The story centers around the matriarch, Junon, played by the legendary Catherine Deneuve, who is dying of liver cancer and completely stoic about it. This leads to an uncomfortable family reunion to find a bone marrow donor. Each sibling in the film carries their own unique issues, which surface throughout the film. It is a film of intriguing and emotional moments acted superbly that never feels slow This can currently be found on Amazon Prime for .99 cents. Well worth it!
4. 2018’s A Holiday Calendar, an American film directed by Bradley Walsh, on Netflix, technically falls back into our Hallmark world, as it involves a struggling female photographer working as an Elf, a magic Advent calendar and the classic case of not seeing that the the man of your dreams is right in front of you. But I found the the main character Abby Sutton’s (played by Kate Graham) journey and the subplots unfold in a more interesting away than many other films in this genre. And the two leads are people of color and there is a diverse supporting cast. This is so refreshing in the still too white world of the Christmas movie. Also I love that the lead male Josh Barton played by Quincy Brown is not the typical small town flannel wearing handyman saving the family Christmas tree farm type (not that there is anything wrong with that but that hand is definitely overplayed) but a travel blogger who has traveled the world.
So God Jul! Fröhe Weinachten! Joyexu Nöel! Merry Christmas! And happy holiday binge watching!