The Holly and the Ivy
Although it’s by no means a classic, this British melodrama from 1952 provides an interesting snapshot of domestic life in postwar Blighty. Taking place over Christmas in rural Norfolk, it revolves around a family gathering at the vicarage of the widower Reverend Gregory (Ralph Richardson, in good woolly form).
With the wife and mother of the Gregorys gone, the family is unwinding: Celia Johnson’s devoted daughter sacrifices her happiness with beau John Gregson to look after her father; Margaret Leighton’s high-flyer obsessively pursues a London fashion career, and Denholm Elliot’s wayward young son gets into trouble doing his military service.
Luckily, a pair of dotty aunts are on hand to tease out the secrets and lies that are destroying the domestic peace. It’s ultimately sentimental stuff, but it never becomes saccharine. No chance that it’ll usurp It’s A Wonderful Life as the Christmas go-to film, but it beats the pants off modern muck such as The Holiday. No extras.