A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christmas Survival (also known as Surviving Christmas), a 2018 British feature, references the difficulties many families have when far-flung relatives get together for obligatory holiday celebrations, gatherings that tend to renew old conflicts. As a couple prepares their old country house for the arrival of family members, a son from an earlier marriage needs to go to rehab, the sister who achieved Hollywood success raises issues about a will, a man with an alcohol problem drunkenly comes on to someone's unmarried half-sister, and cousins fight. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "and "bastard." A married man takes Viagra and comes on to a single woman. His teenaged daughter finds them as they are kissing. The daughter makes out with an older boy. A woman in her sixties pulls out a vibrator from her toiletries bag. Young kids looking through her keyhole and not understanding what they're seeing report to their mother that the woman doesn't seem well. A dog eats a Viagra tab and (offscreen) has an erection. Teens and adults smoke marijuana. Adults drink alcohol, in some cases to excess. Drug and alcohol use are presented as fun things to do. Two people head for drug and alcohol rehab.
What's the story?
In CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL, Miranda (Gemma Whelan) and her husband Dan (Julian Ovenden) are preparing to host family members for the first Christmas since Miranda's parents died and left her a huge, dilapidated country house just outside of London. Miranda is an earth mother in rubber boots, struggling to cook and clean, raise organic vegetables, and otherwise find ways to make a living, and Dan is a former architect who's given up his city practice to provide their three kids with better schools and a decent childhood. Miranda's sister Lyla (Joely Richardson) arrives from Los Angeles. She's a stuck-up, successful actress awaiting word on the renewal of her shlocky, high-paying TV series. Her husband Trent (Michael Landes) is an agent who's just lost his job owing to an alcohol problem. The condescending pair let everyone know the accommodations aren't up to their usual standards. At the same time, Dan's son from an earlier marriage, Harry (Jonas Moore), has been smoking too much weed and heads off to rehab, but he leaves immediately, causing consternation and strife between his parents.
Is it any good?
Solid performances and a certain chaotic charm give Christmas Survival a little bit more substance and entertainment value than most of the formulaic movies usually created for the holiday season. The performers are attractive and capable, but some central conflicts just don't make sense, like issues relating to a will. And it's not Richardson's fault that she's stuck in the role of the phony, self-absorbed, and larger-than-life Hollywood type, but that cliché brings the level of this enterprise down considerably. More important, parents seeking, light, kid-friendly holiday fare may find Christmas Survival an unlikely Christmas choice because of drug use and sexual content.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the universal experience people have of families -- that they can be the best and the worst. What are some of the best things about families? What are some of the worst?
Who are the main characters of Christmas Survival? How does the filmmaker convey their importance?
How does the movie portray the differences between the English kids growing up in the country and the American kids growing up in urban California? Does the film favor one set of kids over the other? How can you tell?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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