Apparently, there’s four times as many Christmas movies around as ten years ago; it’s not a genre that usually interests me, but the Scottish setting for Mary Lambert’s oddball A Castle for Christmas drew me into a festive buffet of wayward accents and glutinous sentiment from which no-one emerges unscathed. A slice of holly-jolly romance, it’s a hoot for anyone who knows what life in Scotland is actually like; this is US wish fulfilment, dressed in tartan, drowned in eggnog and served with a sprig of wilting heather.
Brooke Shields plays Sophie, a world-renowned author of books of words whose fame brings her to no-less august a literary salon than the Drew Barrymore show, where she abruptly realises that killing off her main character has alienated her core audience. Seeking solace, she decides to head for Bonnie Scootland, where her grandfather’s roots lie in the fictional town of Dun Dunbar and the ‘castle’ of the title. Well-moneyed Sophie falls for the antique charm of the place, but isn’t ready for the attentions of wily Myles (Cary Elwes) the Duke of Dun Dunbar, who hopes to scare her off and make a killing on her deposit. Can Sophie negotiate the frantically knitting, yarn-bombing villagers and find true love with Myles? There are no prizes for guessing how this one turns out…
…but there really should be prizes for anyone who can identify Elwes’ accent, the likes of which hasn’t been heard since 1954’s Brigadoon; the actor does claim to have some Scottish ancestry and really should know better. Myles is able to trace Sophie’ family history back to such figures as the ‘Fizz Duke’ and the ‘Thud Duchess’, and he understands her passion for the place. ’You wouldn’t be the fuzzt,’’ he explains to our bookish heroine, concluding ‘Send me a copy when you get back to Noo Yolk.’ Meanwhile Sophie tries to capture her own story in prose, a more-than-difficult challenge since her Macbook keys don’t appear to have any letters on them.
With clean cinematography from veteran Michael Coulter and erm, larger-than-life performances, A Castle for Christmas is innocuous Netflix fare, although the mangling of local history is regrettable and insulting. It bears as much resemblance to Scottish life as a minstrel show bears to Black Lives Matter; until Scots are allowed to make their own cinematic representations of their own stories, such other-worldly tourist trap entries are all we have for sustenance, which is pretty weak porridge. And much as it pains me to say it, the crew of A Castle for Christmas seem to have been either misinformed or pranked as to the meaning of the word ‘dobber’, which is mentioned several times as in “I love you, you dobber’ . To quote from a finer hour for Elwes, The Princess Bride, ‘You keep using that word. I don’t think that word means what you think it means…’