If you’ve ever thought about how a Hallmark Christmas movie would appear without former Disney child stars, fancy filming locations, and Dolly Parton’s performance of a holiday song at the end, we now have an example. This British low-budget film serves as a response to other holiday-themed movies like Falling for Christmas, A Cozy Christmas Inn, and A Christmas Cookie Catastrophe, all of which came out in the past year.
The creators of this film are clearly well-versed in the standard formula, incorporating the following common Christmas romantic comedy elements: a struggling yet wholesome business (as indicated by the title), a return home for the holidays (also hinted by the title), the charm of small towns versus big cities (as seen in the location of Holly Day Inn), a chance encounter (a roadside tire change), a potential career change for the female lead (initially a workaholic based in London), a secondary romantic plot involving an older couple (featuring Colin Baker and Anita Dobson), the importance of the Christmas spirit, a villain trying to shut down a local business (hint: the male lead works for them), a major misunderstanding (the male lead is mistaken for a travel journalist), and of course, an adorable dog named Mr. Jingles. It’s not an original concept, but that’s the appeal: to indulge in a cozy blend of clichés, much like sipping on a gingerbread latte on a chilly night.
It’s worth noting that there are annual Christmas pantomimes all over the UK that have much larger budgets than this film. As a result, it has a slight resemblance to one of those unfortunate Winter Wonderland attractions where people pay £100 to enter, only to find out that the entire event takes place in a pub car park, the reindeer is made of cardboard, and the fairy lights are from a cheap store. However, it would be unfair to be too critical about this: Christmas at the Holly Day Inn was clearly made with a lot of love for the genre and deserves recognition for its effort.