Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a rom-com (sorry/not sorry, Little Women). One of the biggest hits of what was left of last year’s festive season was Happiest Season, a joyous and deliciously funny celebration of love. This year we have something decidedly British and with the distinct feeling that we’ve been here before …..
Boxing Day is Aml Ameen’s (Kidulthood, I May Destroy You) debut as both writer and director, and takes his own life as its inspiration. He plays British author Melvin, a huge hit in America where he now lives. Deciding the time has come to propose to girlfriend Lisa (Aja Naomi King), he doesn’t quite get the response he expects – but, as we soon find out, they both have secrets – and she’s more than a little confused when he reveals he’s about to go back to London to promote his latest book and visit his folks at the same time. She decides it’s time she met the family but, once back on his home turf, she realises that his previous girlfriend, Georgia (Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock) is now a glamorous international singing star. Unfinished business abounds and a plethora of loose ends need to be tied up once and for all.
The love triangle at the centre of the film is just one of a multitude of strands that threaten to over-complicate what is a warm, charming romance, even if it’s a bit short on the comedy. There’s Melvin’s brother and his attempts to win the hand of somebody else’s girlfriend, the return of his father who deserted the family several years ago on – yes, you’ve guessed it – Boxing Day, and Melvin’s mum (the ever-watchable Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and her new boyfriend who she fears may not meet with approval from her vociferous children. There are more, but it would end up sounding like a shopping list.
What’s unavoidable is that Melvin comes from a high-achieving, very middle class, family giving the film the sense of a Caribbean version of Richard Curtis. But, despite the Love Actually references, the smugness is absent, replaced by a genuine warmth and some fun scenes involving a group of card playing relatives that happily follows in the footsteps of TV’s Desmond’s. As a directorial debut, the film’s a little ragged round the edges and feels like a first effort, but it has enough heart, warmth and occasional energy to keep out the winter chill.
Boxing Day is unlikely to become a Christmas classic, but Ameen’s celebration of black and Caribbean culture is fresh enough not to have to try very hard to put a smile on your face. Its easy charm is very much at home at this time of the year.
Romance, Comedy | Cert: 12A | Warner Brothers | Cinemas, 3 December 2021 | Dir. Aml Ameen | Aml Ameen, Aja Naomi King, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sheyi Cole, Tamara Lawrance.