[By Lee Ross, Acumen Editor]
It's clear to anyone who knows me that as an Anglophile, the thought of British Christmas, Boxing Day, and New Year's celebrations are permanent staples to my wish lists. With quarantines and travel restrictions once again on the rise, I was in jeopardy of turning into a right "Bitter Betty," when the trailer of Boxing Day found its way into my inbox. In the tradition of holiday romance classics like Love Actually and The Best Man Holiday, Boxing Day gifts a trans-Atlantic, cross-cultural tale of fear, vulnerability, and maturing in love, to audiences in desperate need of something more than fluff. Boxing Day, also, presents some of London's memorable streetscape and waterways as silent characters many of us have missed taking in these last few years. Most importantly though, actor-director Aml Ameen shows that Black love is magnificent in its G / PG-rated and when presented using multi-generations.
Ameen, who first came to our attention as Trevor "Trife" in the 2006 film Kidulthood, leads the cast of Boxing Day, as Melvin, an up-and-coming writer who finds himself trapped between his future and his past. Touring to launch his new U.S. book, Melvin heads home to London with his fiance, Lisa, in tow, to face a family -- parents (Shirley & Bilal) , siblings (Aretha & Josh), AND a ditched fiance (Georgia) -- with whom he's had no contact in years. Further complicating the doomed reunion: The ex-fiance, Georgia, played by Little Mix singer, Leigh-Anne Pinnock has become a chart-topping singer who is one of Lisa's favorite singers. When the two ladies bump into each other in a hotel lobby, they exchange pleasantries and smile for selfies, clueless to their shared love interest. Lisa, portrayed by How to Get Away with Murder actress, Aja Naomi King, gives full face in this performance, and taking viewers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as she comes to fully realize where she stands in Melvin's life.
Melvin is clearly smitten with Lisa, but has not fully taken responsibility for walking out of Georgia and his family. Boxing Day, celebrated December 26 as a time to gather with family, becomes the eye of the storm for the couple and their extended family. Dashing additional fuel onto the fire are the love lives of Melvin's parents who have since divorced, forcing him to reckon with his Dad's infidelity and new baby, and a White love interest for his Mum. Bilal, (played by Eastenders and The Crouches actor, Robbie Gee, is a sympathetic character who tries to live with the mistakes he's made by interloping on his ex-wife's affairs. It was refreshing to see the elders of the film give sobering and critical insight while navigating their own past missed steps. Gee plays well against Jean-Baptiste, who we've followed from her performances in Secrets & Lies and the U.S. series, Without a Trace.
This film will have modest value for those in the throws of soft-porn, streaming series or films that leave to the imagination. Boxing Day is a beautiful simmering romance, that offers laughs, a few weepy moments, and a lot of room for thought -- if you are of the mind to think through a few things. #EugenicallySpeaking, Boxing Day showcases the spirited Caribbean families that characterize British culture and communities. These are law-abiding British citizens, in loving relationships, working in professional spaces, rearing children, and fostering healthy lifestyles. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a win. This was good, wholesome fun and great to watch. I could have done without the loud, unprofessional "big, beautiful" sister, Chantelle, at the film's opening as a stereotypical benchmark, but am prepared to give the scripting a 'soft pass' because she came and went from the film with that singular scene. Rochelle Rose, is gorgeous and talented. It would have been fantastic to see her portrayal of Chantelle, also called Ms. London as professional and ladylike, too. Many shows have found a way of leveling that bias, including Stella, Drop Dead Diva, The Mindy Project, and Girls. Black women need that addressed as well in the future. The Acumen Group was impressed with the full array of beautiful skin tones and hues, as well as the diversity of cultures and perspectives around the family table. These are the people we see in the London we love. And it's a turn up to see them engaging in their romantic lives onscreen without gratuitous violence, graphic sexual content, unnecessary nudity, or profanity.
Aml Ameen, take a bow. We see you, Son, and love where you're heading.
Boxing Day is available on Amazon Prime.