British cinema has received an unexpected boost this Christmas with the success of a remake of John Hughes’ 1987 Hollywood movie about a man trying to get home for Thanksgiving. In the British version, updated for 2010, an Essex businessman struggles to overcome the odds and make his daily 40-minute commute home from London as he pits himself against the elements and the unrelenting incompetence of Britain’s transport operators.
‘What we wanted to do was make a festive film that really captured the spirit of the times,’ said director Richard Curtis. ‘Whether you’re at home or on the road, Christmas is a time of year for quiet reflection, spending time with others and enduring torturous confinement and provocation. We found an ample supply of all three at station waiting rooms, airport departure lounges and on the closed stretches of the M25.’
In ‘No Planes, No Trains, No Automobiles’, 47-year-old businessman Derek Highfield arrives at Liverpool Street station on a snowy Christmas Eve to find that all Billericay services have been cancelled due to frozen points at Stratford. Undaunted, Derek sets off to find an alternative way home, demonstrating the patience and good cheer which will soon be exhausted as he tells follower travellers, ‘Even the longest journey starts with a single replacement bus service’.
It is then not long before Derek’s bus is stranded on an impassable duel carriageway and the passengers diverted to Stansted airport where the film’s hero is able to complete his Christmas shopping by getting duty-free perfume for his wife, a Samsonite briefcase for his brother-in-law plumber and an armful of Starbucks granola bars for the kids. He then hires a car and takes 18 hours to drive home, crashing the vehicle just yards from his house on Boxing Day night because the council still hadn’t bothered to grit the roads.
The film’s producers are delighted but surprised by its success. ‘Originally we thought it would go straight to DVD, and we had a number of airlines interested in showing it in-flight, but the demand for that seems to have fallen away in the last week,’ said Richard Curtis. Instead the film went on general release when it proved so popular in previews. Audiences apparently stayed at cinemas to watch it three or four times in a row after the snow came down and they had no way of getting home.