At this time of year, there’s no lack of Christmas movies vying for your attention. Aside from the star-studded theatrical features, the Hallmark Channel has kind of cornered the market on making relatively cheap, incredibly familiar, yet still super popular Christmas movies. They’ve got the formula down pat: Easy-to-follow plot, Christmas setting, tons of Christmas activities, romance that doesn’t get too steamy, and a gentle kiss at the end during some major Christmas event. They have a very specific audience, and that audience eats. these. up.
In recent years, however, streaming services have attempted to get into the “cheesy Christmas movie” market with their own creations to varying degrees of success. I say all this to note that you may gloss over Let It Snow when you see it in the Netflix library, reasonably assuming it’s just another one of those forgettable, cheaply made feel-gooders. But you absolutely should not do that, because Let It Snow is something far more compelling, surprising, and artfully crafted—yet no less charming, sweet, and yes, Christmas-y. Think of it as Can’t Hardly Wait, but with Christmas instead of high school graduation.
Let It Snow is based on a YA novel of the same name that was actually written by three well-known authors (Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle, and John Green), each of whom tackled a different storyline set in the same town, on the same day. The adaptation maintains this anthology-like structure, but ties it all together pretty perfectly thanks to a savvy and downright enchanting script by Laura Solon, Victoria Strouse, and Kay Cannon (of Blockers fame).
There are three main plot threads to follow in Let It Snow. They all take place in the same small town on Christmas Eve, which is covered in snow. One finds best-friends-since-childhood Tobin (Mitchell Hope) and Angie (Kiernan Shipka) spending the day with a friend one year older than them (Matthew Noszka), who’s now in college and is super good looking and charming and practically perfect in every way. Seeing Angie and this friend hit it off spurs Tobin to internally admit that he’s in love with his best friend, and has been for a long time. Cue friend zone/love triangle plot.
Then there is Dorrie (Liv Hewson), an employee at the town’s local Waffle Town restaurant whose shift suddenly gets brighter when Tegan (Anna Akana), a cheerleader with whom Dorrie hooked up and sparked an instant connection, walks in with her cheerleading friends for a meal. Dorrie is confused and upset, however, when Tegan can’t seem to give her the time of day. Complicating matters is the fact that Dorrie’s in a fight with her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush), who herself is convinced her boyfriend is cheating on her and who ends up spending the day riding around in a snow truck with a strange lady known only as Tin Foil Woman, played wonderfully by Joan Cusack.
Last but not least, in the best storyline of the bunch, there’s Julie Reyes (Isabel Merced, of Dora the Explorer and Transformers: The Last Knight fame) and Stuart Bale (Shameik Moore, the voice of Miles Morales in Spider-Verse). Julie is a smart, quiet young girl who is struggling to reconcile her acceptance into Columbia University with the fact that her single mother is incredibly sick—how could she move away when this might be her mom’s last year on Earth? She ends up running into Stuart, a famous musician and pop star who’s passing through town and gets stuck in the snow, and the two strike up a relationship despite the fact that Julie could not care less about Stuart’s fame and glory.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re now very aware this is a YA movie. While some YA films come across as an adult’s imaginary version of what they think teens might talk about/care about/do, Let It Snow rings true. Or at least as true as a sweet, feel-good Christmas movie can get—so maybe a party in a Waffle House-like restaurant wouldn’t actually happen, but hey, it’s fun! There’s a serious attempt to treat these kids as real human beings with complicated emotions, and since we’ve all been a teenager at one point or another, we can all relate to feeling like whatever is happening in your life at that point in time is the most important thing ever. Moreover, the film’s ensemble-like nature offers a variety of scenarios. If you can’t relate to worrying that your significant other is cheating on you, how about anxiety over leaving your parents for college? Or falling in love with your best friend? Or navigating being a member of the LGBTQ community in high school? There’s something for everyone to grab onto here.
What also sets Let It Snow apart is it feels like a real movie. Luke Snellin makes his feature directorial debut with a warm, cinematic approach to the material, crafting a dynamic frame so that the film is visually engaging despite having relatively few locations. He also seems to know how to direct his actors, because the performances here are all pretty winning—especially from Merced and Moore, who carve out the film’s deepest and most complex relationship in the bunch. For those who’ve seen their share of Hallmark movies, it’s a treat to watch a Christmas movie that feels genuinely cinematic.
I mentioned Can’t Hardly Wait, and the comparison feels apt. While that beloved 90s film hasn’t aged all too well with its “quiet boy who never told the popular girl he loved her but surely she’ll feel the same way right?” main plot, Let It Snow is a bit like a 2019 update of that kind of movie. It’s really funny and sweet, showcases the various layers we all have as teenagers that we may not want to show others, and also ends with a raucous party. Although this time it’s scene-stealer Jacob Batalon as a DJ instead of a Charlie Korsmo-led “Paradise City” sing-a-long.
Having three main plot threads does hinder the momentum of the film a bit. You have three stories that rise at the same time, which is triply exciting! But then you have three stories that have to hit a second-act lowpoint at the same time, and sitting through one right after the other is a bit of a drag, and kind of devalues some of the lesser stories a bit (who cares about Addie’s dumb boyfriend when Julie and Stuart may never see each other again??). The multi-POV nature of the film is both a gift and a curse.
But for the most part, Let It Snow is a tremendously charming delight. Is it familiar? You betcha. Predictable? Obviously. But in a sea of hurried, overlit, and dumb to the point of offensive Christmas cash-grabs out there, Let It Snow is a diamond in the rough. A real movie with real stakes and memorable characters. And with its ready availability on Netflix, it’s not hard to see it becoming a highly rewatchable Christmas movie for years to come.