A day before Christmas, 3 young children in London are still grieving their mother’s death. To make things worse, their father must work late and asks their Aunt Ruth to look after them. The children think Ruth (Maggie Smith) is rather odd, but they know that their mother liked her. Ruth starts telling them a story about a boy called Christmas, and they’re soon completely absorbed.
In the story, young Nikolas (Henry Lawfull) lives with his father (Michiel Huisman), a poor woodcutter, in a little cabin in the woods of Finland. Nikolas’s mother has been killed by a bear. When the King announces a reward for the person who can bring back hope and magic to his poverty-ridden people, Nikolas’s father leaves Nikolas with a horribly mean aunt and goes north to find the mythical Elfhelm, a place that Nikolas’s mother used to talk about.
After several weeks, Nikolas realises that his red pointed cap – made by his mother – contains a hidden map showing the way to Elfhelm. Together with his only friend, talking pet mouse Miika (Stephen Merchant), Nikolas sets off to find his father – and to discover why his mother called him ‘Christmas’, a nickname that he has never understood.
Christmas movie; fantasy; magic; adventure
A Boy Called Christmas has some violence. For example:
- Nikolas’s aunt is emotionally cruel and abusive. She forces Nikolas to sleep outside in the freezing cold. And she turns his only precious possession – a turnip doll made by his mother – into soup.
- Nikolas’s father and some other men kidnap a young elf named Kip and keep him in a cage. Kip’s parents and the inhabitants of Elfhelm are distraught.
- When Nikolas and his father free Kip and escape, the men shoot arrows at them.
- Elfhelm’s leader, Mother Something, has a sceptre that shoots lightning bolts. She threatens and restrains disobedient subjects.
- Nikolas is thrown into a prison cell.
- An angry giant troll catches Nikolas and nearly eats him.
There are no sexual references in A Boy Called Christmas.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There’s no use of substances in A Boy Called Christmas.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity and sexual activity in A Boy Called Christmas.
There’s no product placement in A Boy Called Christmas.
There’s no coarse language in A Boy Called Christmas.
Ideas to discuss with your children
A Boy Called Christmas is a live-action fantasy adventure for families, based on Matt Haig’s 2015 novel of the same name. The movie reimagines the story of Father Christmas, who lives in far Northern Europe and delivers toys to children all over the world with the help of elves and reindeer. A fantastic cast, fanciful sets, stunning scenery, a gripping story, plenty of humour, and positive role models and messages make this a great choice for a family Christmas movie.
It’s good to be aware that A Boy Called Christmas tells a Christmas origin story that’s different from the Christian story. But you can still use this movie to reiterate values associated with Christianity, including kindness, forgiveness, honesty and self-sacrifice.
It’s also worth being aware that the movie’s recurring theme of parental death might be potentially upsetting or triggering for some children. The movie takes a constructive approach to this difficult subject, however, which might be inspiring and bring a sense of hope to children whose parents have died. For example, the movie acknowledges and validates the pain of this experience. But it also emphasises that tragedy and loss are parts of life and that it’s important to keep an open heart, because ‘grief is the price we pay for love’.
The themes of parental death and several scenes with a sense of peril and danger mean that A Boy Called Christmas isn’t suitable for a very young audience. We also recommend parental guidance for children aged 5-8 years.
These are the main messages from A Boy Called Christmas:
- You can achieve a lot if you set your mind to it and believe in it.
- You should never give up hope.
- You should always fight for what you believe in.
Values in A Boy Called Christmas that you could reinforce with your children include kindness, courage, gratitude, modesty, persistence, forgiveness, sacrifice and strength to move on after tragedy.
A Boy Called Christmas could also give you the chance to talk with your children about issues like the following the importance of forgiveness and the dangers of hate. For example, Elfhelm’s leader, Mother Something, has been holding on to a grudge and suspicion towards all humans. She can’t imagine that Nikolas could be different, but he shows her that not all humans are the same and that there’s good in people.
Nikolas also leads by example by forgiving his mean aunt who treated him so badly. Instead of seeking revenge and taking pleasure in her misery, he shows strength of character and gives her a special Christmas treat.
A Boy Called Christmas also suggests that Christmas isn’t necessarily all about material gifts. For example, the elves’ gifts are modest and humble, although the London children find a huge pile of gifts under their tree.