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Fans of festive film puns are no doubt rejoicing this year over the imminent arrival of Universal’s black comedy Violent Night. Sure, the film may star David Harbour as a boozy Santa Claus forced to take on a team of heavily armed mercenaries led by John Leguizamo, but for many the genius movie title alone is enough of a selling point.
But if you presume Violent Night is the best Christmas pun in movieland this year, think again.
Lurking under the radar at AFM is the exquisitely entitled seasonal romance Yuletide the Knot, being sold by Fabrication Films and boasting a super-rare, double-syllabled pun.
Sure, its timeless story of a small-town wedding planner who unexpectedly bumps into her high school sweetheart when planning her biggest Christmas nuptials yet, a reunion that “reminds her what it is to love,” may not feature a Stranger Things star kicking ass in a Father Christmas suit, but who really cares when you’ve got a film name that good?
“To be honest, it kind of started with the title,” acknowledges director Nanea Miyata. “I’m a very punny person, and it’s really painful for a lot of my friends. I wrote this with a friend. We started a few years ago and were just sitting there coming up with different Christmas movie concepts, but every time we had to include a title, and that’s where it all stemmed from.”
Not content with coming up with one of the finest festive puns going, Miyata even added the line “yuletide the knot” into the script of the film, which shot in the ski town of Steamboat Springs in Colorado. “It’s very cheesy, but I like to include the title in the dialogue of my movies, so it ends up getting said. It’s something I’ve done on virtually every film so far.”
Having been introduced to holiday romance movies by her parents and the Hallmark Channel, where it was just “nonstop Christmas films,” Miyata had her initial taste of this corner of Hollywood as a filmmaker as recently as 2018, with her well-received feature debut, Christmas Harmony (featuring, you guessed it, a character called Harmony who is — double-pun alert — a singer). But even with only two Christmas rom-coms under her (Santa) belt, she says she’s noticed several beats that most such features generally hit.
“First up, for me, snow. Snow’s a must,” she says. “But then there’s often a career girl who’s lost a bit of her heart and needs reminding of the magic of Christmas, and of course there’s a love story that makes her remember, and that eleventh-hour thing where everything’s falling apart, and then of course they get together at the end.”
Once solely confined to platforms such as Hallmark, the humble festive family feature has recently broken free and has been making some major angels in the snow over on Netflix.
The past few years have seen a steady flow land on the platform, including A Castle for Christmas, Christmas Under Wraps, Christmas Wedding Planner (the filmmakers must be kicking themselves for not thinking of Yuletide the Knot), Let It Snow and Operation Christmas Drop.
Miyata isn’t finished with the genre, and says she’s been tempted to do a Christmas horror film, mostly inspired by a movie she heard about that features Santa as a zombie slayer and which is called — wait for it — Slay Ride.
And, in keeping with the self-aware nature of her films, she says she’s got a rather meta-sounding idea for a feature that would turn the seasonal romance on its head, one following someone who actually writes such movies but thinks it’s all nonsense. “And then, ultimately, it is a Christmas rom-com, and he learns that the magic is real,” she says. “It’s very silly, but I felt like I needed to exorcise some of my feelings toward it.”
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Nov. 3 daily issue at the American Film Market.
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