Is “A Castle for Christmas” any good? No

I wanted to love A Castle for Christmas. This new romantic Christmas movie stars Brooke Shields, age 56, and Carey Elwes, age 59. It’s so rare to see romantic movies starring older couples. For this alone, A Castle for Christmas is groundbreaking. Unfortunately, everything else about the movie is meh.

Is it worth giving up 98 minutes of your life to watch Sophie (Shields) and the Duke of Dunbar (Elwes) loving it up in Scotland? I don’t think so. Not unless you want to see how not to make a romantic Scottish Christmas movie.

The big problem with A Castle for Christmas is the movie’s location has the starring role alongside Shields. The Duke of Dunbar is in many scenes but Sophie seems far more excited by Scotland than she is by him.

All good romances have two interwoven stories. There’s the story where the protagonist overcomes a personal growth challenge. (In Love Hard, a much better 2021 Christmas movie, the hero deals with his position in the family pecking order.) Then there’s the one where the couple do the will-they-won’t-they? dance around each other.

In A Castle for Christmas neither story is very compelling. At the start it looks as if Sophie has been cancelled for writing something bad in one of her books. That would’ve been a spicy beginning. But no, the fans are just angry because she killed off a character.

It looks more promising when Sophie flees New York and heads to her ancestral village in Scotland. Once there, she faces no significant challenge beyond some grumpy behaviour from the Duke. Everyone in the village is lovely. And Sophie’s so rich she can do whatever she wants. Where’s the room for personal growth in that? There isn’t any.

I don’t know what to say about the romance storyline. It was so lightly sketched, less than 12 hours later I barely recall it. There’s a shot of Carey Elwes drinking whisky in a marble bath. And he likes clay pigeon shooting, because that’s what aristocrats do innit? What I really remember is all the tartan, the dog called Hamish, the Highland cows, and the ridiculously lavish Christmas decorations in the village high street.

Now, I’d be okay about Scotland having the starring role if the movie actually did the country justice. But it doesn’t. Very little scenery is shown. Village life looks oddly cosy. One Scottish reviewer writes “The class politics are extremely dubious and the portrayal of rural life incredibly patronising” (The National). And the Duke’s castle isn’t even a proper Scottish castle, it’s a mansion.

I say don’t watch A Castle for Christmas but perhaps I’m being unfair. When all is said and done, it’s a perfectly serviceable, cosy Christmas movie. It’s certainly not the best example of its genre. I wouldn’t watch it again, ever. You might like it — if you have low expectations and live thousands of miles away from Scotland.

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