A Boy Called Christmas

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Henry Lawfull in a Boy Called Christmas.
Henry Lawfull in a Boy Called Christmas.
Photo: Studiocanal/Netflix


A Boy Called Christmas




4/5 Stars


An ordinary young boy called Nikolas sets out on an extraordinary adventure into the snowy north in search of his father who is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. Taking with him a headstrong reindeer called Blitzen and a loyal pet mouse, Nikolas soon meets his destiny in this magical, comic and endearing story that proves nothing is impossible.


As December draws near, I've slowly started decorating for the festive season. My kitchen smells of freshly baked cookies, and as always, I've made my list, checked it twice and hope to get all my Christmas shopping done before the holiday rush.

In between all of this, end-of-year fatigue has kicked in. All I'd rather be doing is lying on the couch watching movies, lounging by the pool and stuffing my face with delicious food. Thankfully, the first of those things is part of my job and watching A Boy Called Christmas is the perfect film to settle into on a hot but cosy night in.

There are many versions of how Christmas and Santa Clause came to be – of course, the traditional/religious version. Then multiple mystical versions that hope to keep the magic of Christmas in humans alive. A Boy Called Christmas is an excellent version of the latter.

Based on the book of the same name by Matt Haig, A Boy Called Christmas is a tale about an ordinary boy named Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), who lives in the woods in Finland with his father, Joel (Michiel Huisman). Nikolas sets out on an adventure into the snowy north in search of his father. The latter is on a quest to discover the fabled village of the elves, Elfhelm. On his adventure, Nikolas comes across familiar characters that contribute to what we know today as Christmas and soon meets his destiny.

The film starts with Aunt Ruth (Maggie Smith) arriving at an undecorated house to look after siblings Andrea (Isabella O'Sullivan), Patrick (Eden Lawrence) and Moppet (Ayomide Garrick). The kids are grieving the loss of their mother and no longer celebrate Christmas. This prompts Aunt Ruth to tell them a story about A Boy Called Christmas. I could listen to Dame Maggie Smith tell a bedtime story for hours. Her presence is subtle, yet she brings the perfect balance of humour, seriousness and comfort.

Lawfull is cast very well. Nikolas is an innocent kid so pure of heart and lucky enough to have escaped the harshness of the world. His perseverance and belief that being good will always outweigh being rich is the first takeaway from this enchanting film. Another stand out in the movie is Zoe Margaret Colletti as the Truth Pixie. She's fun and mischievous but carries truth bombs that are perhaps difficult to hear but will be remembered long after the credits roll.

One of these truth bombs is conveyed in this film's significant and well-delivered subplot – dealing with grief. "Grief is the price we pay for love, and it's a million times worth it," Aunt Ruth is heard narrating. Not only have the children she is babysitting experienced loss but so has young Nikolas in her story. And how does one deal with it? Well, Truth Pixie hits the nail on the head when she admits that the pain never goes away, but it does get easier to deal with. Millions of people have lost a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, or friend to the pandemic. What A Boy Called Christmas has done right is the way it genuinely and realistically deals with grief within the magical world of Christmas. Furthermore, screenplay writers Ol Parker and Gil Kenan have delivered this complicated topic in a way that is easily understandable and digestible for a younger audience.

The main reason I enjoyed this movie is that, yes, it's a Christmas movie, but it is somewhat refreshing to watch something that plays with all the easily identifiable things about Christmas in a new way. Everything from Father Christmas' hat to his infamous 'ho, ho, ho' line is so subtly dealt with you might miss it. Still, noticing it makes watching this movie all the more fun.

Christmastime is not about the presents, as wonderful as they are, but rather about the meaning behind them. So A Boy Called Christmas is the perfect present – not only is it wonderful to watch, but the meaning behind it will comfort you and give you hope for the New Year ahead.


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