out of Five
Running time: 94
Writer-director Bernard Rose completes his Tolstoy adaptation trilogy with this engaging, painfully topical and sharply written drama, heightened by a terrific pair of performances from Danny Huston and Matthew Jacobs.
What's it all about?
Boxing Day is writer-director Bernard Rose's third modern-day update of a Tolstoy short story – all three starring actor Danny Huston - following Ivansxtc and The Kreutzer Sonata. Based on The Master and the Man, the film stars Huston as cash-strapped Los Angeles businessman Basil, who abandons his family on Boxing Day in order to fly to snowy Denver and take a look at some foreclosed properties he intends to snatch up for quick resale purposes.
Basil's hired driver for the day is schlubby British ex-pat Nick, who's going through some problems of his own as a result of a recent divorce and a previous drinking problem. As the pair push on through the snowy landscapes, they continually rub each other up the wrong way, but their relationship faces an altogether different test when darkness falls and they get stuck on an isolated road.
Danny Huston excels at playing pompous, manipulative, vaguely saturnine types and he's on tip-top form here, managing to elicit a certain amount of sympathy for Basil, even though he's clearly a bit of a shit. Matthew Jacobs is equally good, playing a character that feels removed from the typical ex-pat Brit stereotype and his performance feels fresh and interesting as a result.
The sharply observed, frequently darkly funny script is excellent, particularly in depicting the ways that Basil and Nick immediately get on each other's nerves, with Basil patronising Nick over his unfamiliarity with the GPS (Julie Marcus as the voice of ‘Cynthia’) and Nick getting in some not-so-subtle digs over Basil's chosen profession. The film is also given an extra frisson of topicality, thanks to the inclusion of what are presumably genuine vacated Denver properties.
Rose orchestrates several memorable sequences, most notably a tense scene in a bar, where a trying-to-remain-sober Nick attempts to flirt with a barmaid, only for her to fall for Basil's more sophisticated charms. Similarly, the climax of the film is extremely well handled and is ultimately both suspenseful and powerfully moving.
Boxing Day is an engaging, well written and impressively directed drama with terrific performances from Danny Huston and Matthew Jacobs. It would also make a good addition to the burgeoning genre of Snow Movies.