Christmas films are typically full of schmaltz, sentimentality and festive cheer, building up the hype for yet another fun-filled day spent with family, playing games, eating and drinking to excess and telling bad cracker jokes. To combat this idealised depiction of 25th December, writer-director Jamie Adams continues his indie-rom trilogy of sorts to bring us ‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’, which comes closer to capturing what the time of year can really be like for the single twentysomethings of the modern age. Noel (Dylan Edwards) has returned to his hometown of Porthcawl in Wales after splitting up with his long-time girlfriend to find that his parents are going away over Christmas. This leaves him alone with his thoughts, reminiscing and reflecting over where it has all gone wrong and what to do next. In an attempt to move on past this grey period, he turns to old friends, the local pub and a therapy which involves primal screaming at the edge of a cliff. Here, he meets Cherie (Laura Haddock) who tells him that ‘everything is going to be OK’.
The improvisational style implemented into the script, as well as the documentary-esque camera work means that the story, and the few characters within it seem incredibly natural. We can relate to Noel as he stumbles his way through uncomfortable conversations and scenarios and this appeals to the very British downtrodden sense of humour where we quite happily cheer for the misfits or losers of society. Because of the free-flowing dialogue, the jokes filter in seamlessly and laughs come both in the deliberately cringey lines and attempts at freestyle rapping, and in the moments of awkward silence. The realism techniques are continued on from the Adams’ last project ‘Benny & Jolene’ which used the music industry as its platform for a dysfunctional love story, and music works its way into the narrative again as well as cinema when Noel and Cherie bond over their shared tastes.
At the heart of the piece is the forced preconception that everyone should be happy at Christmas and should be having ‘a wonderful time’, despite what they may be going through for the other 364 days of the year. Noel and Sherry’s friendship tackles this idea as well as the emotions we go through at the end of romantic relationships, both wanting to be together but neither wishing to be seen as nothing more than a rebound. Their despair is disguised by alcohol and good company, and the highs are accompanied by an upbeat indie-laden Christmassy soundtrack. Dylan Edwards is superb, a natural at appearing unnatural with his equally impressive co-star Laura Haddock, best known for her roles in Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inbetweeners Movie.
‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’ brilliantly sidesteps the notions of joy and celebration surrounding the end of the year, poking fun at traditions to illustrate the true, if pessimistic, sense of the holiday, where we can escape the mundanities to drink and be merry until the hangover sets in and we’re back to the daily grind. That might seem a negative prospect but it is refreshing to see the genre handled in this way, dragging it into the 21st century. The aforementioned indie-rom trilogy from the Jolene production team is two down with one to go, going from strength to strength to reinvent the worn-out formula, presenting the rom-com from new angles with a quirky twist in an ultimately more satisfying way.