The Holiday Calendar
“As a woman of color who never felt included in the Christmas movies I’d seen growing up, The Holiday Calendar clicked for me.”
Title: The Holiday Calendar
Director: Bradley Walsh 👨🏼🇨🇦
Writers: Amyn Kaderali 👨🏽🇺🇸 and Carrie Freedle 👩🏼🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Nobody putting on a Netflix Original holiday movie expects a revelation—and if they are, it’s time to adjust expectations! Accordingly, The Holiday Calendar, one of several Christmas movies to overtake my Netflix dash, feels thoroughly enjoyable but will hardly make it to the Oscars. Still, the acting is solid and the humor feels just elevated enough to avoid being twee or slapstick.
What really makes this film stand out, however, is its diverse leads. Most movies in this genre turn me off with their (conveniently all-white) nostalgia and nuclear families. While I love Christmas, as much as any other child of immigrants who grew up eating sticky rice alongside honey-glazed ham in a warm-weather state cherishes the fuzzy notion of Christmas, Hollywood’s version just never interested me. It was too far off and too unrecognizable.
Enter The Holiday Calendar. By centering a woman of color who works in a creative field, the movie clicked in a way that may have done for others like me—people of color who love this time of year, but who never felt included in the American (and largely Midwest) narrative we’ve grown up seeing onscreen.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? YES
Swiss-born American actor Kat Graham plays Abby Sutton, a photographer stuck working for others as she dreams of having her own studio. The premise alone delivers an empowering hook that includes romance, yes, as many cuffing season movies are wont to do, but that also gives her a deeper motivation that’s pleasantly uncomplicated to root for. (“Pursue that career! Get yo’ dreams!”)
Importantly, Abby isn’t the only important female character. She shares a close relationship with her sister Sarah (Genelle Williams), but beyond that the vast majority of other supporting characters are men. Her two love interests, her goofy friend Fernando, her wise grandfather, and her boss all lend the supporting cast a decidedly male slant.
As mentioned, having main characters of color differentiates The Holiday Calendar from so many other nostalgic Christmas movies. Graham is mixed race Black and white and her main love interest, Josh Barton, is played by Quincy Brown who is Black and likely multiracial.
Black and mixed characters also show up in supporting roles, particularly when we see shots of Abby’s biracial family. Furthermore, her boss Mr. Singh is played by Canadian comedian Ali Hassan and in a small but welcome role, Mayor Patricia Martinez is played by Nicola Correia-Damude of mixed Guyanese and Canadian descent.
That said, their diversity is skin-deep. Rather than letting different cultures influence and deepen characterization, this film chooses to be simplistic and “colorblind.” The characters essentially assume white American lives, their cosy sweaters and icicle-tinged Main Street at home in any 90s era Christmas movie. But I don’t mind that The Holiday Calendar takes place in an idyllic town where everyone gets along in a Mr. Rogers type of way. Why watch a Christmas movie at all if you aren’t looking for fairytale escapism?
Mediaversity Grade: B 4.00/5
For these reasons, The Holiday Calendar is easily the most I’ve enjoyed a Christmas movie in years. Granted, I don’t watch a lot of them in general, but the fact that Netflix has found a way to pique my interest in a genre that generally feels inaccessible counts as a win for diversity in media!
And if the movie’s goal was to “get people in the spirit”, The Holiday Calendar handily succeeds. As soon as the catchy tunes of the end credits rolled, I got off my butt, poured myself some wine, and decorated my Christmas tree to a twinkling finish. 🎄✨