After a rather vitriolic response to her latest novel, author Sophie Brown decides to take a vacation to escape the scandal. She heads to Scotland, where she has familial roots. On a whim, she decides to buy the castle where her great-grandfather used to work, but clashes with the current owner, a Duke named Myles. He’s reluctant to part ways with the castle where he grew up and he’s determined to make Sophie’s stay hellish enough to chase her away and keep Dun Dunbar in the family. While butting heads with Myles, Sophie also befriends some of the locals and finds inspiration for her new novel.
Like most Netflix Christmas rom-coms, you know exactly what you’re getting with A Castle for Christmas. Cheesy dialogue, improbable situations, and of course, gorgeous scenery that appears to have been vomited upon by Christmas. These are not bad things, mind you, if executed properly. And for the most part, A Castle for Christmas does exactly that.
Brooke Shields plays novelist Sophie Brown and while I’ve not seen Shields in much, I have to admit she does have some comedic talent. The scandal that drives Sophie to Scotland is very reminiscent of Helen Fielding’s 2013 Bridget Jones’s novel, Mad About the Boy, where she kills of… well, I won’t spoil it… and the uproar that followed. She has a viral-making meltdown on The Drew Barrymore Show (with a cameo from Barrymore, of course) and decides to take off for a while. She immediately takes to Scotland and the people there – all charming and quirky, of course, save for one. That would be the Duke, played by Cary Elwes. He’s a prickly sort of Duke, taken to odd jobs around the castle, which he opens to tours in order to make some extra money.
He and Sophie seem to maybe get along all right, at least until Myles finds out that Sophie wants to buy the castle – and he’s not really in a financial state to say no. And thus begins a grouchy back and forth between the two until the hostility begins to turn into understanding… and then love. Shields and Elwes are all right together. I mean, it’s Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes – The Dread Pirate Roberts himself! – but their chemistry was lukewarm and came across as a bit forced.
As lovely as the Scottish scenery is, there was still a storybook-cliched feel to the portrayal of the townspeople. I’ve never been to Scotland so maybe I am way off base, but down-to-earth, overly helpful townspeople who form knitting clubs and love their liquor… maybe these people exist?? It’s possible I am very cynical of humanity but this version of Scotland did not come across as modern-day whatsoever. But, again, it’s a Netflix Christmas rom-com where a novelist buys a castle and falls in love with a Duke (why didn’t they call it A Duke for Christmas?), so they’re not really going for reality here.
A Castle for Christmas is a generic, crowdie-filled rom-com that certainly doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but it’s good for a rainy afternoon where you want to watch something simple, predictable and comforting. It’s certainly not the worst rom-com Netflix has to offer and who can really resist Cary “As you wish…” Elwes?