(T)is it the season?

Things are bleak enough these days, regardless of the darker nights and miserable weather, and what better tonic for the winter/lockdown blues than a Christmas movie?! They are beacons of hope, with timeless messages about love, family, and gratitude. With all the joy to gain, how can it ever be ‘too early’ for some Christmas cheer?

However, there are some who believe that Christmas belongs in December alone. If you’re still not ready for the season to be jolly, but you want a not-quite-Christmas watch to ease you into the season, you’re in the right place. UK viewers can find themselves at a loss, because what comes between Halloween and Christmas? Thanksgiving isn’t big in the UK, but we can jump on the bandwagon with hearty, homely, autumnal movies to guide us into the Christmas period.

When I think of autumn, I think of the two leading ladies in my life: Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. Roberts blesses us with ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, and Sarandon nudges us into Christmas with ‘Little Women’. Put them together, and we get Stepmom’ (1998): the autumnal film to end all others. Roberts and Sarandon are perfect as ever, even when pitted against one another as mother and stepmother-to-be of two young kids. It’s the cinematic equivalent of your favourite woolly jumper and a mug of hot chocolate, with a backdrop of golden leaves and pumpkins. While you may need a few tissues towards the end, ‘Stepmom’ is a healthy blend of comedy and drama and gently carries you into the festive season with a Christmas tree at the end.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall?”. If you want to avoid Christmas entirely at this early stage, films that fit the autumnal aesthetic without a visit from the jolly man in red could be a better choice. Classic options are When Harry Met Sally’ (1989) for the rom-com lovers; Dead Poet’s Society’ (1989), if you need a meaningful dose of Robin Williams; or perhaps Knives Out’ (2019), if you’re looking for a laugh and a mystery in one. Sometimes, all we need is a character wearing a scarf or a boot kicking up some leaves to get us into that cosy mood.

Unconventional Christmas films can work just as well as those that bridge the gap between seasons. If you’re tired of elves, Rudolph, and Santa, why not go for something entirely different, like Gremlins’ (1984) or Die Hard’ (1989), whose label as a holiday film is hotly debated by the Christmas crowd every year. Festive films don’t have to be all candy canes and Colin Firth in knitted jumpers. Although, why would you want to avoid that?

Maybe you’re not trying to dodge Christmas films completely, just the few that you watch year after year until you’re tired of them (can’t relate), or the ones that even I will admit aren’t too great—will Netflix ever quit? Will we ever hear the end of the journalist who married a prince? It’s time to refresh your Christmas movie canon.

You might be able to quote ‘Love, Actually’ by heart, but have you seen Christmas with the Coopers’ (2015)? While a little cringier and certainly not critically acclaimed, it really does have it all: atypical Christmas tunes, fake-boyfriend-turned-real-boyfriend, intertwining tales, a young Timothée Chalamet… Instead of ‘The Holiday’, try Serendipity’ (2001), in which John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale meet (serendipitously) one Christmas and leave it up to fate to bring them back together. While ‘Home Alone’ might be your go-to, underappreciated gems like Christmas with the Kranks’ (2004) and ‘The Family Stone’ (2005) could hit the spot. Spruce up your Christmas watchlist, and it might not feel like you’ve given into your holiday routines too soon after all.

All in all, is it too early? As someone who spends half the year preparing for Christmas and the other half wishing that I was preparing, the answer is always: no. But, if the people around you aren’t ready for sleighbells, have no fear—the list of not-quite-Christmas films is longer than you think, if you know where to look.