If you’ve ever imagined a Hallmark Christmas movie without former Disney child stars, glamorous filming locations, or Dolly Parton’s appearance for a holiday song, this British low-budget film is the perfect example. It serves as an alternative to popular holiday films like Falling for Christmas, A Cozy Christmas Inn, and A Christmas Cookie Catastrophe, which have all emerged in the past year.
The creators of this movie are clearly well-versed in the typical story structure, with the following common Christmas romantic comedy elements included: a struggling but wholesome business (as seen in the title), a return home for the holidays (as seen in the title), the charm of small towns versus big cities (hint: the Holly Day Inn is located in a small town), a chance encounter (a roadside tire change), a potential change in career (the female lead starts off as a workaholic in London), a secondary romantic plot involving an older couple (played by Colin Baker and Anita Dobson), the significance of the Christmas spirit (mentioned throughout), the antagonist who wants to shut down the local business (guess who the male lead works for), a major misunderstanding (the male lead is mistaken for a travel journalist), and of course, an adorable dog (Mr. Jingles). While it may not be entirely original, that is the intention: to enjoy a cozy mix of cliches, much like sipping on a gingerbread latte on a chilly night.
It should be noted that there are annual Christmas pantomimes in the UK with much larger budgets than this film. As a result, it has a similar feel to those disappointing Winter Wonderland attractions where people pay a lot of money to enter, only to find out that it’s just in a pub car park, the decorations are cheap, and the overall experience is underwhelming. However, it would be unfair to be too critical of this film. It is clear that Christmas at the Holly Day Inn was made with a lot of love for the genre, and it definitely deserves recognition for its effort.