You know the dilemma. You’re sat in a stuffy room strewn with bloated relatives and discarded scraps of wrapping paper. The food has been consumed, the presents have been opened; the charades, if you’re into that kind of organised jollity, have been played. And it’s only four o’clock. To get you through until bedtime, you’re going to have to watch a film.
But how to choose? The likelihood is, you’ve got such a range of ages and/or tastes represented that you’re never going to please everyone. You’re faced with potential boredom and confusion at best, and with deep embarrassment at worst. What if you’re forced to sit through a sex scene with grandma in the room? What if your hard-of-hearing uncle insists on having you explain every plot development in Inception? What if your annoying little brother makes you listen to his running commentary about the back-story of each of the Avengers?
Watching films at Christmas is a total minefield. Here at Damaris headquarters (which we share with staff from Charity Office), we may not have the answers, but we can certainly offer a little solidarity.
In my living room at Christmas: Adults of varying ages
Most successful: You literally cannot go wrong with The Muppet Christmas Carol. This film is a perennial delight. It’s witty, it’s sweet, it’s sad, it’s joyful, it’s genuinely scary. It is, according to an acquaintance of mine who studied Dickens to PhD level, the most faithful screen adaptation of A Christmas Carol ever made. And it features a performance of remarkable commitment from a game Michael Caine, who has never been better.
You’ll laugh, you’ll sing along. A poignant ballad performed by a tiny green frog will make you cry.
Least successful: Last year I attempted to introduce my family to the transcendentally beautiful Irish arthouse animation The Secret of Kells. While it wasn’t exactly a disaster, I think it just confused them. Might have to stick to musical Muppets.
In Steve #1’s living room at Christmas: Adults of varying ages
I literally can’t remember anything I’ve ever watched at Christmas. Ever. Can’t you ask me about what food I like?
[When pushed] Er, what about Die Hard? That’s a great Christmas film. Or the Hobbit films. I’m slightly embarrassed to say that we’ve genuinely enjoyed those over the past few years.
In Steve #2’s living room at Christmas: Little kids, adults of varying ages
The Princess Bride! Elf! Such great films!
In Judy’s living room at Christmas: Slightly older kids, adults of varying ages
Santa Claus: The Movie – best film ever, nostalgic for the adults, great fun for the kids. But I watched this film … [Pause of approximately 15 minutes as she attempts to remember the title]… called ‘All I Want for Christmas’ with my ten-year-old and it was so traumatic! All a bit too real and upsetting. We had to switch it off.
In Craig’s living room at Christmas: Adults of varying ages
What’s that film about America? [American Beauty?] No, the one with the puppets. [Team America?] Yeah, that one. Do not watch that film with your parents. Miracle on 34th Street, now that’s a solid, middle-of-the-road choice.
In Mark’s living room at Christmas: Teenage kids, adults of varying ages
My family doesn’t really enjoy the stuff that’s usually on at this time of year, you know, the James Bonds, things like that.
We watched a great Christmas film the other day, that one with the guy off Doctor Who. [David Tennant?] Yeah, him. [You mean Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger?] No, the first film. [Nativity! So you mean Martin Freeman?] Is he the one off Doctor Who?