Christmas movie review: Let It Snow

(image courtesy IMP Awards)

There is something particularly charged about certain times of the year when, despite all rational sensibilities to the contrary, people are seized by a need to act on things long dormant.

Christmas is just such a time (along, of course, with its week-away calendar companion, New Year’s), and in Let It Snow, the adaptation of the 2014 book Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle and Maureen Johnson, things comes to a head as expected on a snowy Christmas Eve where all the usual expectations and understandings (along with one much-valued mobile phone) going flying out the window.

In the small town of Laurel, Illinois, a number of disparate groups descend upon a local eating establishment, ‘Affle Town – the “W” having long since gone to the neon advertising gods … or has it? – in search of shelter, work, a party and a chance to set things right.

Or at least, the kind of right that seizes you on big occasions such as Christmas where the thought of not acting on long-repressed impulses and unspoken feelings begins to feel all but impossible, despite the ever present impetus to keep things just as they are.

Eschewing the book’s out of town element which saw one key character parachuted, figuratively at least, into the town when the train she was on got delayed taking her to a Christmas she wasn’t sure she really wanted anyway, Let It Snow keeps things happily local with pretty much all the main characters knowing or at least knowing of each other.

In a film that’s happy to play in the teen romance sandpit with all the usual tropes and cliches, that speeds things up nicely, allowing everyone to get to the always-expected declarations of love true love in just the right amount of time to keep the Netflix viewing algorithms happy.

The only exception to this everyone-knows-everyone narrative rule is Stuart (Shameik Moore), a rising pop star that everyone across all age boundaries seems to know about, who on a whim, follows a girl (Julie, played by Isabela Moner) he’s just met off the train into a deep snow and waffle-y date with destiny.

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If it sounds cheesy it most certainly is, but here’s the thing – for all its dogged adherence to the rules and regulations governing teen romance, Let It Snow, and particularly the nascent and building romance between Stuart, the suave but trouble pop idol and Julie, the not concerned with celebrity but worried about her sick mum and acceptance into Columbia University to study journalism young lady, is actually refreshingly fun and sweet.

For all its artifice, the movie is surprisingly bright and buoyant, investing, thanks to some tight scripting, great dialogue and fine performances of well-rendered characters, a real sense of love, romance and possibility into a night that for all its festive portent, is really just another snowy night in a small midwest American town.

But it IS Christmas, and so, whether it makes sense or not, and possibly because everyone ends up at the party in close proximity and with a lot on their hearts and minds, things do happen, things, we should add, that changes a lot of lives for the better.

Take our central, or near central lovebirds childhood friends Tobin (Mitchell Hope) and The Duke aka Angie (Kiernan Shipka) – giving them a run for their money are Stuart and Julie, and Dorrie (Liv Hewson) and her closeted cheerleader object of great affection, Kerry (Anna Akana) – who have spent their entire lives hanging out together, who know each other intimately well and who harbour long-unexpressed feelings that neither can bring themselves to speak out loud.

Enter one-year-old college friend of Angie’s JP (Matthew Noszka) who seems to be getting on really well with Angie, first at a party hosted by the rough-and-tumble Renton brothers and then in a church where the three shelter after their car ploughs, thanks to a blown tyre, into a ditch filled with snow.

After singing to each other, as you do, it’s clear that Tobin and Angie like each other A LOT – lordy, even PJ can see it but says nothing because, let’s face it, Angie is cute – but nothing is said because, well, long-established REASONS.

We all know, of course, that many things will be said before the night is over but Let It Snow has some fun teasing this out, letting the two friends smoulder and burn before the inevitable kiss ato the roof of ‘Affle Town, which is now sporting its missing “W” and some fittingly-festive lights, at the height of Christmas Eve and the building party below.

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It’s impossibly sweet and happy-ever-after-ish and it works a treat, despite its been-there-done-that plotting, as does the day-old romance between Stuart and Julie who decide to act on Julie’s ailing mum’s advice that “when life offers you something special, you take it.”

Julie is, naturally, none too knee to act on this advice since she has a lot on her young mind but she does eventually, kissing Stuart (but of course she does; no spoilers here unless you simply aren’t paying attention) and re-inventing her life in the process.

Despite the improbability of any kind of meeting like that taking place – this is a Christmas romance people and wholly different rules apply – and it moving the point it does in the time it does, there is something delightfully lovely about the way two people who really, really need each other come together and find solace, friendship and love in each other’s arms.

Equally wonderful is the eventual coming together of Dorrie, who loves Harry Potter, and Kerry, the cool beautiful cheerleader/dancer, who is closeted and not at all inclined to respond in any kind of meaningful way to Dorrie’s gorgeously clumsily advances (they shared a special, soulmate kind of night a while back and it’s clear that they are Meant For Each Other), until of course she does.

(In the midst of Dorrie trying to seal the True Love deal, her bestie Addie, played by Odeya Rush, is having man problems with the casually cruel Jeb, played by mason Gooding, as well as getting to know the local toe truck driver and wacky tin foil-wrapped sage, and film narrator, played by Joan Cusack, who is a joy from start to finish).

The point at which they kiss is musical-level crazy and unbelievable but honestly, you care not because Let It Snow takes the time, even on its cracking 1 1/2 hour tight narrative schedule, to make you care about these characters, confected circumstances and all.

Throw in some supporting characters such as wannabe DJ Keon (Jacob Batalon), ‘Affle House manager, the zen-like Billy (Miles Robbins) and Stuart;s publicist Kira (D’arcy Carden) and you have an almost effortlessly charming film that uses the snow, Christmas Eve and the charged feelings of the season to hand us a gloriously lovely film that may be the sum of many other, already well-used parts, but which manages to be fresh, vibrant, fun and sweet and most importantly for a film set when it is, full of Christmas cheer and the ever-present festive hope that everything will be wonderful, not just on the eve and the big day but for the rest of life, however long that may be.

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