Taking place against the snowy vistas of the Scottish Highlands, Lost at Christmas is the second feature film from writer and director Ryan Hendrick. After both suffering personal setbacks and missing the last train back to Glasgow, Rob and Jen find themselves isolated together for a Christmas adventure. I was lucky enough to chat with lead actor Kenny Boyle about this festive, feel-good film…
Lost at Christmas has arrived in cinemas off the back of Ryan Hendrick’s Perfect Strangers short film, so you’re reprising your role of Rob. Did you have a different approach to the character knowing this outing was feature length?
Hi Garry! Working on a feature rather than a short is a completely different beast. In the short we had half an hour to go from heartbroken to in love and with a journey so truncated you flit from one emotion to the next quite quickly and easily. The feature film is a lot more real in terms of the emotional journey for both characters and we got the opportunity to really delve into how people may behave after the devastating heartache both of the main characters suffer. Playing Rob this time was a more involved, more emotionally intensive, and ultimately more satisfying experience for me and hopefully also for the audience.
Rob’s grumpy demeanour in the beginning of the film (after his emotional disappointment) seems like a perfectly Scottish antidote to the English Hugh Grant romcom type… are there any particular actors or performances that influenced you for this film as the romantic leading man or for your other work?
I have, in some of my past work, been compared to Hugh Grant a shockingly large amount! So it’s funny you should say that. In all honesty, whilst there are many actors I admire and love to watch, I don’t consciously draw influence or try to emulate any particular actor when I perform. For me it’s about getting into the head of the character I’m playing rather than worrying about how other actors may have approached the part. I adore being compared to actors I love and admire, but I don’t want to be thought of as the next James McAvoy or David Tennant. I want to be thought of as the first Kenny Boyle.
A lot of the story unfolds within the little pub which I’ve been lucky enough to go to in the past. With a great supporting cast that includes Clare Grogan, Sanjeev Kohli, and Sylvester McCoy, do you have any on-set stories that you could share?
Isn’t the Clachaig wonderful? Such a great setting and such wonderful owners and staff. They made us feel so at home. I have a wealth of stories so I’ll try to choose one of my favourites. What I’ll say first of all is that all of the cast, these huge names in Scottish film and theatre, were the most down to earth, supportive, and lovely people. It daunting to walk on to set and see Sylvester McCoy, or Clare Grogan, or Sanjeev, Frazer, or Karen. But the whole cast meshed together so well and so quickly that after a few minutes it felt like we’d been working together for years.
There is a scene in the film where Jen and Rob find themselves lost in the woods during a blizzard. Well, the blizzard was real. We were on the top of a mountain at the Glencoe ski centre for that scene and there was a campervan that was being used as a hair and make-up trailer. As we were filming the weather turned from nasty to flat out belligerent and we all watched this campervan, which mercifully no one was inside, get dragged sideways across the entire length of the carpark by the wind. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the van stopped moving before it could topple off the side of the mountain, only to see the whole rear bumper of the van get caught in the next crazy gust of wind and get torn off the van and flung away. At that point our director, Ryan, called the shoot off for the day – it was the only day of filming we lost, but given the circumstances it was definitely the right decision. The fear and urgency on our faces in that scene is 100% genuine!
I try to champion Scottish films that don’t take place in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and it was great to see the mountainous landscapes of Glencoe on the screen. How did the setting add to the film and to your performance?
I wholeheartedly support that! I’m from the Isle of Lewis and it’s so nice to see a contemporary Scottish movie being made in the highlands. Scotland is so romantic, our landscapes are so full of beauty and are totally awe inspiring. We have this remarkable canvas at our disposal and when you look at the grandeur of the mountains of Glencoe it’s impossible not to get lost in the epicness of them. It just seems so right that if a romance movie be made in Scotland it be made in the romantic setting of the highlands. There is a place for films made in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they are valuable films to make, but with all this beauty at our disposal we’re mad not to utilise it in our story telling more often!
For me, the setting is a character in the movie. This story couldn’t happen in one of Scotland’s cities. Edinburgh and Glasgow never sleep, really, you’d always find a way home. In Glencoe, though, once that snow gate closes there’s no way out. This film set anywhere else would be a totally different film. And in terms of how it added to my performance, I am so proud to be in a film that shows an often unseen side of Scotland and I was aware at every point of making sure I was bringing my best possible performance to try to match up with the incredible backdrop.
The unorthodox ending might divide the opinions of the audience. Without giving anything away, where do you see Rob in five years’ time?
I’ll try so hard not to spoil anything here. I hope the ending does divide opinion. The ending was what really drew me to the script. I think it’s something people will talk about and argue about and either love or hate as they leave the cinema. It won’t please everyone, but I think after mulling it over most people will realise it was the right way to end things.These are two characters who have been defined for their entire adult lives by their relationships. Everything about who they are had been determined by their connection to someone else. Both of them have learned, early in the film, that in living for someone else who wasn’t doing the same in return they’ve got to a point where they don’t really know who they are when they’re alone.I think the message is that you don’t need to define yourself by who you’re with. You are a full and realised and legitimate person whether you’re in a relationship or not. It’s going to take both of these characters a bit of time to get to know who they really are and settle into themselves and that’s absolutely right.
I don’t know where Rob will be in five years’ time. I do know this though: both Rob and Jen know that the Clachaig is out there. It’s not going anywhere. They know that any Christmas for the rest of their lives they can make their way back to Glencoe and meet the characters they met there again. Who knows, maybe they might even meet each other there too.
What’s next for you as an actor?
I’m a lucky guy. In the last month I’ve won a Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland New Playwrights Award and been granted Creative Scotland funding to work on a new digital play called An Isolated Incident. So I’m going to be working hard in the world of Scottish theatre well into 2021. Ideally I’d love to get some more roles on either the big or small screen as well, so my fingers are firmly crossed the 2021 is an easier year for the creation of film, tv, and theatre than 2020 was.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
I’ve been asked this a lot recently as I’m sure you can imagine! I still don’t have a strong answer! I love Gremlins, but that doesn’t seem to count. Nightmare Before Christmas is brilliant too, but other interviewers have informed me that that is categorically a Halloween movie. I think I’ve settled on Elf as the quintessential happy, jolly, heart-warming, Christmas movie.
Lost at Christmas is in selected cinemas from Friday 4th December and will be released digitally on Monday 7th December.
Check out the trailer!