Title: A Castle For Christmas
Released: 2021

Fix: Scotland: I Wish I Was There, Cheesy Christmas Romances, Tartans, Older People Want Romance Too, Knitting Circles, Pubs Where Everybody Knows Your Name, Dogs Named Hamish
Platform: Netflix

After the year(s) we’ve all had, I think it’s time to bring back the dopamine-inducing fun of the Holiday Series! Wherever you find yourself, it’s time to cozy up in your favorite sweater or under your softest blanket, get yourself something sweet to nibble on, and spend some time believing in the magic of the holidays.

Netflix Summary:

To escape a scandal, a bestselling author journeys to Scotland, where she falls in love with a castle – and faces off with the grumpy duke who owns it.

What’s Actually Going On In Santa’s Workshop:

Sophie has spent the last decade writing a best-selling book series, but she’s catching major flak from her readers when she kills off the hero, Winston, who’s a not-so-subtle simulacrum of her now ex-husband. Even Drew Barrymore is annoyed with her! So she decides to eff off to Scotland to visit Dun Dunbar Castle, the place her father grew up as the son of the groundskeeper. She is immediately taken in by the quaint little village and the loveable knitting group that hangs out in the local pub all day long like they’re the cast of Friends in a coffee shop. And she falls head over feet for the grandeur and nostalgia of Dun Dunbar Castle, deciding it must be hers when she hears it’s for sale.

Myles, the twelfth Duke of Dun Dunbar and poor than dirt, is none too pleased that there’s a legitimate buyer, as he’s been trying to stave off selling by offering tours and hosting weddings. He agrees to let Sophie buy the castle if she spends 90 days in escrow living with him and learning how to run the grounds; assuming that he will scare her off and get to keep her non-refundable deposit (look, just go with it).

But apparently neither of them have ever been in a land war with Asia seen a Christmas romance, otherwise they’d know their hearts are not safe when in proximity to drafty stone staircases and tartan-patterned wool.

(Some random trivia for you: one of the co-writers of the screenplay is Ally Carter, who you may recognize as the writer of YA novel, Heist Society.)

Naughty or Nice List:

Brooke Shields as Sophie

I decided to watch this when I saw a clip of Brooke Shields on The Kelly Clarkson Show talking to Kelly and Kirsten Dunst about how proud she was to work on a movie where a woman over the age of 50 got to a) play her own age and b) get her own love story. (It was actually a very cool convo between these three powerhouses who’ve collectively spent decades in the entertainment industry.) Brooke looked absolutely gorg in this movie and she seemed to be having a blast. I’m glad she found a role she liked, though in the future I do wish for better scripts to find their way to her. (Also, do y’all remember Lipstick Jungle?! I totally forgot about the show that gave us Robert Buckley.)

I was very curious how much money Sophie has made from her book series since she seemed very Rich White Lady and had nary a second thought about buying a dilapidated-but-still-a-whole-ass castle. While she came off as super privileged at times (she gets indignant when Myles rightly calls her out for wandering off into the private areas of the castle during her first visit), she was very generous to her friends from the knitting club and decided to revive the annual Christmas Eve ball for the townspeople.

Verdict: Naughty for a number of reasons, including but not limited to her dreadful choices of book openers, this poorly thought-out notion of owning a crumbling castle with no long-term plans about maintenance, and getting to go to Scotland on whim and a wish while I am here at home, not frolicking with a Scottish laird.

Cary Elwes as Myles

The other reason I decided to put this movie on, because—and I know this is Very Important Information to you, dear Reader—Cary was one of my very first movie crushes and will forever have a little spot of my heart for being Westley and the best Robin Hood in tights. The man knows how to give a smoldering blue steel look, and I dare say he can still Get. It. There were moments when Myles kept giving Sophie little side-eye looks where he was clearly crushing on her and didn’t want her to know, and, yes, it made my heart pitter-patter.

I’m sure if you scour the internet you’ll find much has been Said about Elwes’ attempt at a Scottish accent. I shan’t waste much time on it, because I am quite crap with accents and he didn’t sound THAT bad to me, and also, like, I’m pretty sure someone having a fake/bad accent is practically a prerequisite for most holiday movies, so do AS YOU WISH, Cary dear.

Verdict: Naughty because he stuck Sophie in the coldest room in the castle and then had the audacity to yell at her the morning after they had sex for making him remember that she was still buying his ancestral home and that made him feel inadequate. (Though really I just want to shove some lumps of coal in the writers’ stockings for typing up this manufactured dramatic moment and then watching them film it with completely straight faces. It made even less sense than usual, and my bar for holiday romances is already sinking into a floor of gingerbread.)

Barley as Hamish the dog

I was BEYOND impressed with Barley’s acting abilities. Also, maybe now I, too, want to name my next dog something Scottish?? (I like animals with people names, when you have to stop to wonder for a moment if someone is calling for their errant child or their frolicking furball. The more dignified sounding, the better.)

Verdict: Nice; he is obvi the goodest, cutest boy.

Sleigh-Sharing Capability: Ride For One

This movie was actually Not That Bad, as far as Christmas movies go, for the first hour or so. Sure, it was cliché as all get out, but it was pure escapism and never pretended to be anything but. Sophie even got me in the feels for a hot-toddy second when one of the villagers said she had her father’s smile and she choked up in such a visceral way.

But the last 30 minutes, when Sophie and Myles have the silliest fight and then everyone is all mopey and the dog begs Sophie not to go, and the “entire” village at the Christmas Eve ball is only like 40 people and yet there’s enough desserts to feed thrice that many—it all gets a bit muddled, like they had no idea how to finish the story.

I’ve seen worse (Christmas Switch 2, I’m looking at you), so I’m not sure there’s even a reason to have a buddy around to kvetch to. It’s good to have on while you’re doing some chores alone and maybe that way you’ll feel less offended by the ending.

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Scotch On The Rocks?

Because, according to my husband—who dragged me to multiple distilleries across Scotland—you never defile a good, peaty scotch with sour mix. (I’m only allowed to use the Canadian Club for my mixed drink aberrations.) Your drink preference will depend on what kind of person you are.  

Did It Get Me In The Christmas Spirit?:

Yes; it’s not Christmas if I’m not yelling at the TV while a potential couple fights for no reason and then makes up just in time for present opening. (What are you going to do with an entire CASTLE, Sophie?! Will it be a B&B? Why didn’t you get a home inspection??) There was plenty of cozy sweaters, tartan throw blankets wrapped around shoulders, crackling fires, and artfully placed Christmas lights. I’d like to be invited to a Christmas Eve ball where everyone exclaims merrily over the decadent cupcake displays.

Did you watch? Being that it’s #6 on Netflix’s top 10 as of today makes me think that’s a yes! Join me in the comments to discuss!

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.