Christmas comes but once a year, but Netflix keeps on giving
I love a good pun, in a headline, an advertising slogan or the title of a book or TV show. Netflix’s Over Christmas, a three-part German import, could be asserting that the main character is ‘over’ Christmas, truly done and dusted with, and glad to see the back of it, or it could be insinuating that the proceedings take place over the festive period.
Both takes are true; each of the three episodes roughly span the 23rd to the 25th of December, and our protagonist, Bastian, is not having a good time. He’s an aspiring singer-songwriter making ends meet by working in a call centre, and an audition has just gone belly-up.
He returns to his charming little hometown, Eifel, from Berlin, to be met by his stern father, scattered mother and younger brother Niklas, a paediatric doctor working in Munich. His brother has an unexpected guest in tow; Bastian’s ex-girlfriend, who Niklas has now taken up with, much to Bastian’s surprise and disgust.
So, dreams of fame and fortune in tatters, his ex now happily and unabashedly with his decidedly more successful little brother and his parents acting strangely, Bastian could not be less thrilled about being trapped home for Christmas.
The only thing for it is to head to the pub, where he meets old friends and his brother’s former high-school girlfriend, and after downing shots in flagrant abandonment, one thing naturally leads to another.
Over Christmas is a digestible domestic comedy that, though throwing up some inevitable ‘serious issues’, doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bastian daydreams frequent, quirky imagined outcomes to upcoming incidents, like his father greeting him joyfully with open arms, when instead a curt nod welcomes Bastian after he alights from the train.
As the days go on, more Christmas capers ensue, like forgetting to order the turkey and having to improvise when it turns out all of the Christmas trees are sold out. Despite the exaggerated premise, there are moments of well-observed family dynamics, for instance when Bastian and Niklas put their differences aside in order to secure the tree for their tradition loving mother, indicating that their brotherly blood is thicker than water, when it comes down to the nitty gritty.
It’s an uplifting, slightly silly festive watch that’s not too tasking but isn’t as sugary sweet as your average Lifetime or Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s a tightly contained story with a redemption arc that doesn’t rely on the good old It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol tropes, which makes it more fresh than your standard festive fare.
Not quite for all the family (I would stamp it with a PG13 rating), it’s nevertheless a nice Christmas watch that serves up the requisite warm and fuzzies, with a side of humour and pathos.
Another seasonal offering from Netflix that I ended up watching, was something I hadn’t initially considered, but then for some reason (mainly a desire to stop scrolling and just choose something already), I did.
What put me off in the first place was the trailer, that told me it was about two wise-ass teenage New Yorker, and if there’s something I dislike more than sassy wise-asses, it’s teenagers. Combined, they’re an off-putting prospect to behold.
I can say I don’t like teenagers because when I was one I didn’t like people in their thirties – actually, even worse, people in their thirties didn’t even exist to me, being in that grey area between aspirational early to mid-twenties and whatever age my parents were.
Anyway, these teens are equally as self-absorbed as I was, as well as one being immaturely world-weary despite (or because of) being extremely privileged and the other immaturely peppy, even though she has significant self-esteem issues. They’re teenagers, they’re New Yorkers, they’re wise-asses, it’s Christmas, it’s a recipe for eye-rolling insufferability.
But even so, Dash and Lily, to my utter surprise, isn’t horrible! It’s actually quite lovely! The pair are played with heart by Austin Abrams and Midori Francis respectively, providing more depth and likability than I could have imagined.
The set-up goes that Dash discovers Lily’s journal, planted in a bookshop, inviting him to a dare. The journal is then passed back and forth as they challenge each other further, in remarkably wholesome and life-affirming fashion.
Each episode of eight is about 20 minutes long; nice, bitesize portions injecting a little sweetness into your life with each viewing; if this cynical thirtysomething can enjoy the youthful capering, it’s more than possible that you will too.
First published in The Tuam Herald on December 09 2020