Boxing Day: Aml Ameen Breaks Down The Trailer For His Black British Christmas Movie

Boxing Day

by Sophie Butcher |
Updated on

In recent years, Aml Ameen has made a name for himself as a magnetic on-screen presence – starring in The Maze Runner, Sense8, and more recently in Michaele Coel’s I May Destroy You after his breakout performance in 2006’s Kidulthood. But with his new Christmas romcom Boxing Day, he’s moving behind the camera to direct, as well as penning the script and taking on producing duties.

Ahead of its release on 3 December, the first trailer for Boxing Day has just arrived – watch it here – and it promises to be a funny, heartwarming addition to the Christmas cinematic canon, as well as shining a light on holiday celebrations inside a Black British household. Empire spoke to Ameen about his desire to direct, the inspiration for the film, and how he hopes it will become a Christmas classic set for rewatches in years to come.

A disastrous proposal


After glimpses of Stateside palm trees and a trail of rose petals, the trailer opens with Melvin (Aml Ameen) delivering an epic proposal to girlfriend Lisa (Aja Naomi King), complete with a ‘Marry Me’ sign, live band and plenty of candles. Sadly, it doesn’t quite go as planned, with Lisa’s face turning from a beaming smile to imminent puking. For Ameen, casting How To Get Away With Murder’s Aja Naomi King was a no-brainer. “She’s such a formidable actor, so beautiful in the purest way," he says. "To be able to work with her and for us to develop our language as Melvin and Lisa together was such a joy.”



If it starts in America, the city of London is at the heart of Boxing Day as Melvin heads to his homeland with Lisa in tow. This homecoming reflects Ameen’s own personal experiences of travelling to the USA as an actor. “It’s a transatlantic story,” he says. “I’ve lived an international life myself, and so have many people of colour that I know.” Other elements of the director’s life filtered into the plot too, including his father’s name (Bilal). "My parents are divorced, I’ve had girlfriends that are famous, and gone through trying to deal with how that works, especially when you’re younger," he explains. "So lots of it harks back to my early to mid 20s, and some of the experiences I had around that, so that’s what I meant by pulling from the diary of my life."

The look of luxury


It wouldn’t be a Christmas movie without plenty of lights and lavish decorations, and Boxing Day revels in festive luxury – something that Ameen was keen to include, given the majority Black cast and starry nature of the characters. “It was really important to me to show Black people in those opulent environments, whether it be a first class lounge at Heathrow airport, or driving through Soho in a really nice car,” he says. “It’s aspirational to see Black bodies in those environments, and makes you feel good.”

But beyond the luxury, there's plenty of 'real' London too. “We get a window into a North London estate through the character of Joseph, but we show it in a way that it’s not all drudgeon and this macabre thing. It can also be beautiful,” says Ameen. “That’s the life I’ve lived, and I really wanted to add that to the landscape of what it means to be Black British in cinema.”

Mixing it up


Upon returning to London, Lisa runs into Georgia, Melvin’s pop superstar ex-girlfriend, played by Little Mix’s Leigh-Anne Pinnock in her first film role. The role was always written as a popstar, Ameen tells us – the challenge was finding either an actor who could sing, or a singer who could act. Thankfully, Leigh-Anne fit the bill. “I met her and watched interviews, and she just shows such humanity, such a natural pathos, she’s a beautiful person, and those were the qualities I needed in Georgia,” he says. “She worked so hard - and romcom is not an easy genre to start with, because it requires so much comedy, but she was a riot. She put down a wonderful performance.”

Meet the family


The holiday season is traditionally spent with family, and though Melvin as a character may be reluctant to introduce Lisa to his kin, getting across the loving, chaotic, sometimes awkward nature of a family Christmas was crucial for Ameen to make the film feel quintessentially British. “I just love a British Christmas,” Ameen says. “To me, what we deem Christmas just feels so honest, it’s just the best.” Plus, it ties into a wider legacy of British festive films. “I think it’s the reason why films like Love, Actually are the biggest ones around the world, because British Christmas is just cool. It’s fun, it’s naughty, it’s crass sometimes. We all have that crass old uncle who’s getting too drunk and too loud, you know? It’s universal.”

Lame, actually


Big romantic gestures are a staple of the feel-good festive genre, and being a huge fan of romcoms like Notting Hill and The Philadelphia Story, Ameen wanted to include them in Boxing Day – but also subvert them a little. The trailer concludes with Melvin pulling an Andrew Lincoln in Love, Actually, standing outside Lisa’s window with an apology expressed via dropping cards. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go down well. “Melvin’s trying to get his lady back with this outlandish gesture, and his sister is like a voice from a younger generation who just goes, 'those things don’t work any more', and I love that.”

If Ameen's plan comes off, we'll have a new generational Christmas romcom favourite on our hands. “It’s definitely intentional to get in those callbacks that people are familiar with, but then you go okay, here’s some adages that you won’t be expecting," he says. "It really helps give people that sense of nostalgia, but also takes them on a new journey.”

Boxing Day arrives in UK cinemas on 3 December.

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