Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, Image: Rex/Shutterstock

    10 Yuletide movies with a British setting

    17 December 2020

    British Christmas filming locations range from the the enchanting (the village of Shere in Surrey) to the prosaic (South Mimms service station, Herts).

    Readers possibly walk past some of these locales every day without a second thought – so, as the holiday season approaches, make some time to explore one local to you:

    Last Christmas (2019) – Amazon Buy

    Spy director Paul Feig rather dropped the ball with this financially successful but decidedly so-so tale of Yuletide redemption, written by Emma Thompson and husband Greg Wise.

    Angling to be another Love Actually (2003), Last Christmas stars GoT’s Emilia Clarke as a down in the dumps Christmas store assistant Kate, who meets the mysterious Tom (Henry Golding), her guide through some of the lesser known stories and sights of London, the city acting as the virtual third lead in the movie.

    Locations include Brydges Place, Lombard Street, Phoenix Garden and Cecil Court, as well as the much more familiar Piccadilly Circus, Strand, Regent Street, Thames Embankment and Covent Garden.

    Click & Collect (2018)

    This BBC TV movie knowingly riffs on both Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) and the Schwarzenegger ‘comedy’ Jingle All The Way (1996) as Stephen Merchant embarks on an interminable quest to buy his daughter the ‘must-have’ Christmas toy du jour (Sparklehoof the Unicorn Princess), in the process teaming up with annoying neighbour Asim Chaudhry.

    After playing a Tooth Fairy (2010) in the film of the same name, Merchant gets to dress up as an overgrown elf in Click & Collect.

    To capture some of the Click & Collect experience, take a trip to the scenic South Mimms service station where a few key scenes were shot.

    The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) – Amazon Rent/Buy

    Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) stars as a financially desperate Dickens, who draws on his own early years and observations of some of the characters that populated the City of London as inspiration for his comeback novel A Christmas Carol.

    Christopher Plummer appears as Scrooge, who interacts with Dickens as his writing of the story progresses.

    As with a fair few movie and TV productions (including Ripper Street and Penny Dreadful), Dublin stands in for Victorian London. A shame in some ways, as a fair percentage of Dickens’ city is still visible.

    Get Santa! (2014) – Amazon Rent/Buy

    A much-better-than-it-sounds comedy, Get Santa! is boosted by the presence of the ever-reliable Jim Broadbent as Kris Kringle, along with strong support from Rafe Spall, the ubiquitous Stephen Graham, Jodie Whittaker, Ewen Bremner and Perry Benson.

    Santa endures a Paddington 2 style time in stir when he tries to release his reindeer from a police lock-up.

    Well-chosen locations include Lancaster Castle, Freston Tower in Suffolk, and Wetherby Town Hall.

    Filth (2013) – Amazon Prime

    This adaptation of the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name is by no means a traditional Christmas movie, despite the amount of ‘snow’ featured.

    The picture follows the drug-fuelled antics of Edinburgh Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) taking in the scenic sites of the Scottish capital’s historic Grassmarket.

    Nativity! (2009) – Amazon Prime/Netflix

    The lowish-budget Nativity! franchise of Christmas themed comedies has proved a durable success, with four films to date and a popular stage play.

    Martin Freeman stars in the first movie as a teacher putting on a Nativity play against a rival private school.

    2021 UK City of Culture Coventry is the backdrop for the picture, which makes good use of sites such as the ruined cathedral and the (relocated) medieval buildings in Spon Street.

    A surprising fact is that town planners apparently demolished more of the ancient city in the 1930s than Hitler’s Luftwaffe in WWII, which is a sobering thought.

    The Holiday (2006) – Netflix

    I’ve spoken about the manipulative Christmas would-be classic The Holiday in a previous review, but it’s worth mentioning again the beauty of the village of Shere in the Surrey Hills, which has also featured in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and Four Weddings & a Funeral (1994).

    Nearby Bourne Wood has also become a popular location for a plethora of motion pictures, including Gladiator (2000), Robin Hood (2009), The Wolfman (2010), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Wonder Woman (2017).

    A Child’s Christmas in Wales (1987)

    Denholm Elliot stars in this atmospheric take on the classic Dylan Thomas prose piece. Not much plot, but the sense of nostalgia for Yuletide past is almost irresistible, a time when “it was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas”.

    Even if Thomas isn’t your bag, you may have a soft spot for A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which, if accompanied by an appropriate libation and a crackling fire, pleasantly washes over you. The film was shot on location in the Mid-Wales town of Montgomery (Powys).

    A Christmas Carol (1984)

    One of umpteen onscreen renderings of the Dickens classic (including the recent BBC1 ‘death metal’ version with Guy Pearce), Clive Donner’s TV movie has become a favourite with viewers of a certain age.

    The adaptation stays true to the book, although George C Scott’s Scrooge comes across as not that bad a chap in some ways, possessing as he does a wry sense of humour – even before his metaphorical ‘gun to the head’ conversion.

    The film was shot in Shrewsbury in Shropshire, which has retained much of its character with plenty of pleasing Tudor and Georgian architecture still in evidence.

    On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – Amazon Rent/Buy

    Admittedly to some not a traditional Christmas movie, George Lazenby’s sole effort as 007 does have a seasonal vibe, with plenty of snow, a Festive Swiss market scene and Yuletide references peppered throughout the Piz Gloria sequences.

    Short of jetting to Switzerland (Covid permitting) your best bet is to take in the Royal College of Arms in the City of London, where George Baker (Inspector Wexford) as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray guides Bond through the rudiments of heraldry.

    Baker also dubbed much of Lazenby’s dialogue when Bond masquerades as Bray in order to infiltrate Blofeld’s (Telly ‘Kojak’ Savalas) mountain-top lair-come-laboratory.

    Travel restrictions and funds permitting, another home of iconic Christmas movie locations is New York City, where you can see where scenes from the likes of Elf (2003), Home Alone 2 (1992), Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994), Scrooged (1998) and Serendipity (2001) were shot.