A Child Named Christmas, the review: the new holiday movie starring Maggie Smith

The review of A child called Christmas: an incredible adventure among snowy landscapes, talking mice and party elves, in search of lost hope and the origins of Christmas.

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A Child Named Christmas: Henry Lawfull during a scene from the film

With the holidays approaching, the desire to watch films capable of making us savor the Christmas atmosphere also grows. In this desire of ours Netflix comes to meet us, enriching its catalog with many titles dedicated to the most magical time of the year. Among the latest releases we find A Child Called Christmas, a film adaptation of the best seller of the same name written by Matt Haig, one of the most beloved contemporary British authors. The film, directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House, Poltergeist), is a real Christmas pearl that can count on a stellar cast that includes Maggie Smith, Jim Broadbent, Sally Hawkins, Michiel Huisman and Kristen Wiig, as well as a perfect young protagonist in her film debut. Henry Lawfull, this is the name of the newcomer actor, plays the role of Nikolas, a determined boy who will face the most dangerous of journeys to find the magical land of the elves and bring home the gift of hope. As we will see in ours review of A child called Christmas, the film represents a splendid reinterpretation of the origins of Santa Claus, between snowy landscapes, talking mice, grumpy reindeer, party elves and lots and lots of magic. Without ever losing sight of the complexity of the characters and the emotions that follow one another throughout the story.

The origins of the legend

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A Child Named Christmas: Kristen Wiig and Henry Lawfull in a scene from the film

The story told in A Child Called Christmas begins in modern-day London, when great-aunt Ruth (a flawless Maggie Smith) visits her three grandchildren on Christmas Eve night. The children, mourning the recent loss of their mother, are not thrilled with the Christmas celebrations or spending time with their elderly aunt; things change, however, when the woman begins to tell them a bedtime story set in the heart of Finland. The protagonist of the story is Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), a red-haired boy with big blue eyes who lives in the forest together with his poor father (Michiel Huisman) who works as a lumberjack. The two live in such precarious conditions that, when the capricious king (played by an irresistible Jim Broadbent) offers a reward to anyone who is able to restore hope to those lands, Nikolas’ father sets out in search of the legendary kingdom of the elves: Elfhelm. Left alone with his terrible aunt Carlotta (Kristen Wiig), the boy makes an exceptional discovery: inside the red hat with a white pompom (does it remind you of anything?) Left him as a gift by his deceased mother, Nikolas finds a map that leads right in Elfhelm. He decides to embark on an incredible adventure together with his inseparable talking mouse Miika (Stephen Merchant in the original version) to find his father and bring back home (and in his heart) some hope.

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A magical cast

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A Child Named Christmas: A scene from the film

One of the highlights of this Christmas fairy tale directed by Gil Kenan is definitely the cast. Maggie Smith always proves to be flawless as great-aunt Ruth, an older version of Mary Poppins, while Jim Broadbent is hilariously hilarious as the eccentric and whimsical king with the huge bushy wig. Kristen Wiig is also extremely credible (and funny) in playing the terrible Aunt Carlotta who, with her perfidious gimmicks, gives Nikolas all sorts of things. We then find Michiel Huisman (whom the public knows above all for his work in series such as Game of thrones e The Haunting of Hill House) as the brave father of the boy and an unexpected and successful Sally Hawkins as the ruler of Elfhelm, intent on banishing those traditions that make it such a magical place. In the midst of a cast of this level, the young Lawfull shines like a star, a real revelation in his first important role, capable of emanating as much innocence as much determination with his eyes alone. We are sure that we will see him very soon in other productions.

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A story that warms the heart

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A Child Named Christmas: A scene from the film

A child called Christmas is truly a story capable of melting even the most impenetrable hearts. Just like the best fairy tales, in fact, this film is characterized by light and shadow, incorporating within it moments of joy as well as precious messages about the pain of loss and sacrifice that we are sure will make your eyes moisten. Important social issues such as discrimination and prejudice are also explored, highlighted in the complex and initially conflicting relationship between elves and human beings. The classic positive messages typically associated with the Christmas holidays could not be missing, but they never turn out to be excessive or cloying, going to fit perfectly into the narrative.

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Fairytale visual experience

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A Child Named Christmas: Henry Lawfull and Zoe Margaret Colletti in a scene from the film

A Baby Named Christmas is a truly unique visual experience: beautiful snowy landscapes, magical special effects and fluid animations that bring the film’s star animals to life, especially the cute Miika mouse and the Lampo reindeer. The charm that the film emanates is also given by the director’s choice to set the shooting at the limits of the current Arctic Circle, a decision that makes the story even more authentic, allowing the viewer to fully immerse themselves in those atmospheres for all of its 103 minutes of duration. All this makes A child called Christmas already a real cult of the holidays with the only defect, if we really want to find one, of not offering great space for laughter, even if there are some brief moments of humor.

Conclusions

As we saw in our review of A Child Called Christmas, the film based on the best seller of the same name by Matt Haig and directed by Gil Kenan is a full-fledged place among the must-see films of the holidays. The cast is stellar but the real star is the young lead actor, making his (perfect) film debut. The breathtaking settings, the magical special effects and the authenticity of the emotions certainly make it one of the best proposals of the genre on the Netflix catalog.

Because we like it

  • A stellar cast.
  • Magnificent settings.
  • Complexity of characters and emotions.

What’s wrong

  • Little room for laughter.

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