Romantic Comedies are my favourite kind of film, no question about it. I love the innovation in them, that although we know that it’s going to be somewhat predictable story in which a couple finds each other and falls apart, and either recovers or walks away, there’s a thousand ways to tell that story. Like 500 Days of Summer and The Last Five Years that do such interesting things with structure and story telling. And don’t get me started to those that inject a little magical realism into the rom com, adding just another element to me adoring them that heightens them out of the normal just enough- like Ruby Sparks or Bewitched. I’m overjoyed that people seem to come round to my favourite genre as we reach the end of the year and the nostalgia for Love Actually hits. The favourite few have become a ritual as intrinsic to Christmas, as the tree itself. The naysayers have their own Christmas tradition. Every year the same few articles circulate about why Love Actually is actually the worst. And every year I read them, agree, laugh, and then go right ahead and watch it anyway, at least twice over the Christmas period. We come back to them year after year because they have become tradition, a ritual and, quite simply, they make us feel good. Like a lot of things at Christmas there’s not anything particularly remarkable about them, the same decorations go on the tree, the same lights go up at Princesshay, the same Coca Cola advert plays. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about feeling festive and feeling good in the littlest things- and Christmas Rom Coms are a part of that for a lot of us.
Isn’t Christmas a moment to take a second away from cynicism?
Now if you’re an avid hater of the rom com in general, you’re really not going to like me. It’s not just The Holiday or Love Actually that I’m an advocate of, oh no, it’s much worse. As soon as we hit November, Channel Five start to play none stop Hallmark movies, and you won’t hear a bad word from me about it. Objectively, yes, I know, they are awful and basic. There’s approximately two versions, one is broken family learn the true meaning of Christmas through the spirit of giving and the other is- my personal favourite- powerful but cold businesswoman warms her heart by finding love at Christmas. All following the same format and titled “ A BLANK for Christmas’, take your pick- A Boyfriend, a Princess, A Bride- if you can think it they’ve done it. And I love them. They are reliably wholesome. You’re not going to see them at Sundance, and they wouldn’t want you too. They’re not taking themselves seriously. They are made for television, background to your cooking to stand aside the tree, something to curl up to with the box of Quality Street when nothing else is on, something to , quite simply, feel good. There’s a reason that this year, with all its challenges, the American Hallmark Channel has seen an all time high in numbers, with the company executive attributing it simply to being that Hallmark ‘is a place you can go and feel good’. And that’s really all there is too it, and really, isn’t that enough? Isn’t Christmas of all times a moment to take a second away from the cynicism, there’s enough awful things going on in the world that sometimes the predictability of a happy ending and the promise of scenes round a fireplace or baking cookies doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.
sometimes we just want a bit of straightforward plain old Christmas spirit
It’s not that they can’t create “quality” films, it’s a choice. It has, reluctant as you may be to accept it, become a genre style in itself. Nothing makes this more clear than Netflix’s new Hallmarkesque Christmas film- A Christmas Prince. We all know Netflix can produce critically acclaimed content from Stranger Things to Jessica Jones. But that’s not the point, bad Christmas rom coms are a genre in themselves now, and they sell. It’s pure escapism, yes a little bit of wish fulfilment, a part of everyone must wish that a prime minister Hugh Grant would ruin relationships with America, just for us, or that we’ll slip on ice whilst shopping and fall right into the arms of the man of our dreams. Just the possibility that something magical can happen is enough. No matter how much we cling to it, the childhood wonder isn’t the same anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make our own magic. Because sometimes we just want a bit of straightforward plain old Christmas spirit- and there’s nothing wrong with that.