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Review: New Film Boxing Day by Brit Director/Actor Aml Ameen gives that ‘Love Actually” Vibe

Review: New Film Boxing Day by Brit Director/Actor Aml Ameen gives that ‘Love Actually” Vibe

Think Love Actually, and meld it with Crazy Rich Asians.  Set in the heart of London’s multi culturalism, Boxing Day (1 hour 50 mins) directed by Aml Ameen illuminates the big screen this Christmas.

Behind the scenes: Ameen with Pinnock

With a cast that includes Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Secrets & Lies, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence), Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away With Murder), Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock (Leigh-Anne Pinnock’s acting debut), Robbie Gee (The Real McCoy, Small Axe: Alex Wheatle) and Sheyi Cole (Small Axe: Alex Wheatle), Boxing Day tells the story of British author Melvin (Aml Ameen) who returns home from LA to London for Christmas.

Ameen (Melvin) with Lisa (Aja Naomi King)

He introduces his American Fiancé, Lisa (Aja Naomi King), to his eccentric British-Caribbean family. Their relationship is put to the test when she discovers the world her fiancée has left behind. As a Christmas rom com the film is both a love letter to British characters we know and love, and also to British culture and delivers just as intended.

Behind the Screens: Director Aml Ameen

In his directorial debut, this is the first black British led Christmas film to grace the big screen. Its arrival is timely.

In his own words Ameen says: “Love, Love, Love, why’d you take so long to come to me…” As Donny Hathaway famously sang…

“We all love, from all walks of life, we love. And in loving, we try to figure out this complicated thing called… love. The teenage love that fills your mind with a euphoric intoxication like no other. The grown-up love, heading to a place where you stand before God and man, and announce your love to the world.

And then there’s the love that the world is yet to understand, and so it is kept a whisper, too precious to be heard by anyone but those lovers.

I’ve created the FIRST EVER Black British Rom-Com set around Christmas. I’ve long been inspired by the great holiday movies with a romantic touch. Whether it is Richard Curtis’ Love Actually, or Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday or one of my personal favourites P.J Hogan’s My Best Friend’s Wedding. Me, a working-middle class London boy, found myself having synergy with these wonderfully executed movies, that at the heart of it all, are about love and family. My love for these movies brought about a natural question, why hasn’t anyone created this kind of film through the specificity of my cultural lens? That is why I looked back at the diary of my life and decided to sit down and write about a personal celebration of my culture and my city”.

Martina Laird with Ameen

The film comes hot off the heels from a propagation of black A-lister talent which gathered in London in October for the 65th London Film Festival and UK premier of, The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel).  London hosted a burgeoning of talent which will undoubtedly join Black Panther as a marker in the capital.    Before Warner Brothers announced its release on 3 December, we had only one black British feature to look forward to this Christmas, Tales of the Fatherless (co-directors Misha Elliott and Stefan Davis).  Now it seems, in keeping in with a festive tune, there’s more to choose as New Year’s Eve comedy set in 1999, Pirates from Reggie Yates (directorial debut) joins uplifting Christmas classic, Boxing Day for its own seasonal release.

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Aml Ameen’s acting career is expansive and originally started in TV and theatre. His breakout performance was in the cult classic, Kidulthood (Menhaj Huda) where he played central character, Trife.  Since then he has gone on to star in dystopian sci-fi film, The Maze Runner (Wes Ball), Yardie (Idris Elba) and for more left field sci-fi fans, Parallel – a movie in which Ameen leads as friends stumble upon a mirror that opens as a portal to a multiverse.   More recently he may be better known for playing city banker, Simon in, I May Destroy You.  However, in Boxing Day Ameen carves out his own nuanced vision: broadening the view of Black British life.  Full of quick paced comedy, intelligently composed British observations, Boxing Day serves exactly what we need– a joyful and timeless, laugh out loud funny Christmas movie.

In a beautifully filmed scene set in a jazz club and shot in only one take, Melvin (Aml Ameen) and Lisa (Aja Naomi King), come to see popstar ex-girlfriend, Georgia (Leigh-Anne Pinnock) sing in an outstandingly beautiful and raw performance of a well-known song.  We stay intimately connected in the moment to the chemistry between the actors – it’s a beautiful moment hard to believe it was filmed in one take.  Music plays a key part, Chet Baker, Fela Kuti…Vybz Kartel the soundtrack is both integral to the story and thoughtfully put together.  There’s light and shade and ultimately the film’s strength is in how uplifting it is to watch. Ameen writes with nuance that has a playfulness in the scripting but also delves into heartbreak, finding love and the complexities of expectation in family relationships.  Intended as an ode to black British culture, the film isn’t a spin on the Rom Com genre – it is the genre!   Boxing Day’s timeless, Christmassy feel is charming, and wouldn’t work without relatable British-Caribbean humour as it shows how far back British culture has moved in England.

Boxing Day is in cinemas today, 3rd Dec 2021

by Abigail Yartey