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broodings from the burrow

December 1, 2021

virtual advent tour 2021: day 1
posted by soe 6:00 am

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Thanks for joining us once again for 2021’s version of the Virtual Advent Tour, a tradition that dates back nearly fifteen years.

Today I want to start us off with a Christmas movie review.

Like many people, my family has a long, well-established love affair with Christmas films. We watch the classics every year, as well as movies that are classics to us, digging out VHS tapes recorded in the 1980s of children saving Santa or his reindeer or PIs searching out long-missing grandchildren to reunite with their feisty millionaire grandma.

Last weekend, while up in Connecticut, we streamed a couple films that I could see making future years’ rotations. The first is A Castle for Christmas, which you can find on Netflix.

Starring Brooke Shields and Carey Elwes, the rom-com focuses on best-selling American novelist Sophie Brown (played by Shields). In the wake of her divorce, Sophie has killed off her protagonist’s love interest in an unpopular move with her fans and followed it up with a meltdown on a talk show. To escape the bad publicity and the loneliness of the holidays, she does what any of us would do and books herself a holiday to the tiny Scottish town where her father grew up, hoping to get started on her next book in peace.

We are immediately introduced to a roguish handyman, played by Elwes, who, it turns out is Miles Dunbar, a duke and the nearly broke owner of the local castle. In addition to the tours they’ve been doing and a dusty gift shop, they’ve been forced to start booking events in the hopes of making ends meet, but he’s struggling to keep the bank at bay.

Sophie immediately falls in love with the castle and puts in an offer to buy it. It’s not fully clear how she knows to do this, but perhaps this is the sort of gossip you pick up in the local pub. Miles is resistant, but eventually agrees, with the caveat that she has to move into the castle for 30 days and will forfeit her deposit if she decides to leave. He tells his valet and BFF that once he chases her off (with the coldest, most dilapidated bedroom and a chilly demeanor), they’ll be able to use that money to stay afloat.

But what if his plans don’t work out quite as expected?

Shields and Elwes have good chemistry on screen and seem to enjoy each other’s company. The cast of mostly Scottish actors in the secondary roles are charismatic and endearing and help to draw attention away from Elwes’ over-the-top accent.

The script is a little light, being too eager to jump past the enemies stage and into the romance. So what could have been legitimate impediments to Sophie’s impetuous decision (how does a New Yorker keep a castle from continuing to crumble into disrepair or care for an entire village, particularly if the current duke/handyman has departed?) are easily brushed aside in favor of roaring fires and horse rides in the snow in pursuit of the perfect Christmas tree. But the characters are all so good-hearted and earnest and there are enough moments of humor sprinkled in that you’re eager to overlook that and get back to enjoying it.

The Scottish scenery cements the deal, with sweeping views of a wooded countryside, a quaint village with a cozy pub, and the titular castle. If you had millions of dollars, you’d relocate there too.

If you’ve got access to Netflix, I’d suggest checking it out.

Stop back tomorrow for Day 2 of the Virtual Advent Tour. If you’d like to join our merry band of posters, please sign up here.

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