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Entertainment: Is Stranger Things star Cary Elwes' new Christmas romcom on Netflix worth watching?

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It's Christmas season on Netflix and that means plenty of cheesy romance films to indulge in. Just like a cup of hot chocolate for the soul, these films are heartwarming and often highly entertaining (whether you think they're objectively good or not is in the eye of the beholder).

A Castle for Christmas review - Netflix's romcom stars Cary Elwes (Stranger Things) trying to scare off a novelist (Brooke Shields) from buying his castle. © Netflix A Castle for Christmas review - Netflix's romcom stars Cary Elwes (Stranger Things) trying to scare off a novelist (Brooke Shields) from buying his castle.

We've already had The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star, and Love Hard. But the one we're here to talk about is A Castle for Christmas.

It stars Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes (Stranger Things, Mission Impossible 7) as star-crossed lovers in the Scottish countryside. Shields stars as Sophie Brown, a famous author who becomes suddenly mired in scandal.

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Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas © Netflix Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas

To escape the ire of her fans, she goes to Scotland to reconnect with her family routes. While there, she falls in love with a castle on the brink of ruin and goes head to head with the curmudgeonly, but handsome, Duke Myles (Elwes) who owns it.

Of course, Myles is reluctant to sell and sets about trying to make her life miserable so she backs out of the deal. However, as they strive towards compromise, butting heads all the way, they embark on a discovery that is far more than what they bargained for.

It's a straightforward premise, and the hijinks that Sophie and Myles get into are predictable. But somehow both stars manage to imbue their characters with a believable earnestness that belies the over cheese (and who doesn't love cheese?).

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Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas © Netflix Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas

Like most movies of its ilk, A Castle for Christmas is mostly devoid of any socio-political landscape, which is a bit odd when a film is built on a system as controversial as aristocracy — particularly when you have an Englishman playing a Scottish duke.

Before we diverge into an episode of Outlander, it is worth noting that the movie doesn't want to make any broader political commentary about anything, that's perfectly fine. While the lack of commentary makes itself obvious through its absence, there's so much holiday cheer you'll likely soon lose yourself in the romance of it all. Just schmaltzy enough, A Castle for Christmas has everything you want from a Christmas rom-com.

Its humour might not be the laugh out loud kind, but there are enough soft chuckles to keep you from rolling your eyes. It was strangely refreshing to have the focus of a romance movie be on an older couple, whose journey doesn't feel so much like the beginning of a story, but the second book in a trilogy, which makes for an unanticipatedly unique experience.

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Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas © Netflix Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas

However, A Castle for Christmas does fall into some traps. It perhaps unintentionally leans into two deeply harmful tropes. The first is 'bury your gays'; the only explicitly LGBTQ character is a widower, who has been mute ever since the death of his husband (you can absolutely guess the moment when he speaks again).

The second is the magical Black best friend; hotel owner Maise (Andi Osho, Line of Duty). She gets the most to do out of the supporting cast of friends, but as a result, the burden of being Sophie's spirit guide, helping her on her journey towards accepting love, falls on Maise's shoulders.

Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas © Netflix Cary Elwes as Myles, Brooke Shields as Sophie, A Castle for Christmas

While it might at first appear like a 'progressive' choice, it merely reinforces a dangerous and prevalent trope. We get some of her backstory, which features a failed relationship with Thomas (Lee Ross) that seems to be on the mend, but the subplot is bolted on and never quite explored enough.

A Castle for Christmas is highly formulaic and the dialogue is clunky, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining or enjoyable, even if some of that time is spent laughing at its sheer obviousness. There are certainly better Christmas films out there, but we wouldn't judge anyone for enjoying a film that is essentially a cup of Bailey's hot chocolate with a gingerbread cookie — syrupy sweet and slightly nauseating.

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A Castle for Christmas is now available to watch on Netflix.

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