Perfect strangers, childhood friends, and a piglet in a Santa hat all collide on Christmas Eve – it can only be a festive Netflix original.
By some stroke of algorithmic wisdom, Netflix has opened the festive season early by releasing young-adult romance adaptation Let It Snow in the first week of November. We’re going to be snowed under by original festive films between now and 25th December, so it’s just possible that the early release date is a show of confidence in this festive anthology movie.
Helmed by debut feature director Luke Snellin, the film takes place on Christmas Eve in Gracetown, a snowed-in town that even the local waffle house’s broken sign denotes as “awffle”. As budding DJ Keon (Jacob Batalon) plans a long-awaited festive shindig at that very restaurant, we follow three couples throughout the day; perfect strangers Julie (Isabela Moner) and Stuart (Shameik Moore); childhood friends Tobin (Mitchell Hope) and the Duke (Kiernan Shipka); and platonic best friends Dorrie (Liv Hewson) and Addie (Odeya Rush).
All in all, Let It Snow emerges as a more modest, more intimate, and more LGBT-friendly version of the romcom selection box formula that was minted by Love Actually. Just as the source material (a romantic anthology novel from YA authors Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle) follows “Three Holiday Romances”, so screenwriters Kay Cannon, Victoria Strouse, and Laura Solon have split the work of this intertwined Yuletide trilogy between them.
For the target audience, it’s about as star-studded as you’d expect. The ensemble comprises a host of youngsters who are familiar from elsewhere, whether it’s from blockbuster franchise entries, Netflix teen shows, or YouTube channels. The biggest name here is arguably Joan Cusack, who weaves between stories (and looks to be having a lovely time doing it too) as a tinfoil-clad, tow-truck-driving eccentric, who also narrates the film’s bookends.
Of the three main plot strands, the strongest belongs to Moner and Moore. Both of the young stars are terrific in the film and it’s hard to escape the sense that this will be the sort of “before they were famous” outing that gets unearthed in such round-ups every December, once they’ve both moved onto bigger and better things. The same goes for Hewson, whose lovable waffle waitress pines for a missed connection with a closeted cheerleader, while also nursing a delightful obsession with piglets.
It could be said that anthology films like this one are only as strong as their weakest storyline – and here it’s the predictable runaround between Tobin and the Duke, which keeps threatening to drag the film down into some stickily generic territory. Happily, the rest of the film around them is different (even if it’s not especially original) enough to set it apart from much of the mass-produced saccharine schlock we see around this time of year.
However, there’s also a more hit-and-miss vibe to the soundtrack. The titular Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne number never pops up, but the needle-drops come from all year round, ranging from an original festive pop song by Moore’s character to an ill-fitting burst of The Clash’s Rock The Casbah. Elsewhere, moments set to The Waterboys’ The Whole Of The Moon and The Rolling Stones’ 100 Years Ago may be memorable for the wrong reasons, but that depends entirely on your taste for cheesy singalongs and dance-offs.
As long as you know what you’re in for, Let It Snow still has the contagious Christmas spirit that comes with all the greats. This may not be one of those greats, but other than the fact that it’s out so soon in November, there’s very little to object to about this inclusive, big-hearted confection. Even if the multiple stories don’t grab you, the talented cast are pretty irresistible.
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