Melvin (Aml Ameen) is a British author living in America. Now he’s coming home to London for Christmas with his fiancée, Lisa (Aja Naomi King), who he doesn’t realise is pregnant. Thanks to a family feud one Boxing Day, he hasn’t spoken to his relatives in years. He also has to repair relations with his ex-girlfriend and now celeb singer Georgia (Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock in her acting debut).
Within minutes of ‘Boxing Day’ we’re introduced to the various characters that populate the movie and it can be a bit frazzled figuring out who’s connected to whom and how. Still, some strong dynamics are soon established, such as that between Georgia and her PA – who is also her childhood friend and Melvin’s sister – Aretha (Tamara Lawrence). Laughs are had at their back and forths, and in the US, an elaborate proposal goes wrong, providing another silly and humourous early set piece. Really it’s the characters that drive ‘Boxing Day’, and provide its main strength from start to finish.
Lisa, played by ‘How To Get Away With Murder’s Aja Naomi King, is adorable. Elsewhere Marianne Jean-Baptiste is fabulous as the fiery matriarch Shirley. The storyline of her hesitation to introduce her white boyfriend, played by Stephen Dillane, to her family is touching. There’s some great casting too with the life of the party aunties and uncles. It’s notable that where some characters have their lives in order (mostly the women, though not all of them), there are others who really need a kick up the arse. As the family sits around the table, slagging each other off and hitting the dancefloor as soon as a bop comes on, there’s something really inviting about this movie.
‘Boxing Day’ will likely get compared to ‘Love Actually’ with its big cast, but it never feels derivative of that film, even with its Richard Curtis feel (‘Notting Hill’ also coming to mind). It’s also a very London-centric story, and comes alive when Leigh-Anne Pinnock sings. Tonally, Aml Ameen’s script can be a bit all over the place, uneven, and very predictable. But its objective of having a good time is undeniable, and it’s hard to resist being swept up in the seasonal fun.