Film and Plot Synopsis
The three siblings of the of the Gregory family are each coming together for Christmas at their father’s home in the remote village of Wyndenham in Norfolk. The patriarch of the family is Martin Gregory who lives with his adult daughter Jenny Gregory. Martin is the village parson and has dedicated more time to his parishioners than to his family. Each sibling has their own family secret that they keep hidden from their father that will be revealed before Christmas morning.
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‘The Holly and the Ivy’ Movie Summary
As the family comes together, tensions start to rise. The main reason is Martin’s son Michael (Denholm Elliot) who is a national serviceman in the Army. Michael has developed a strong resentment towards his father and the religion that he represents. Michael does not want to go to university after he fulfills his military service as his father wants him to. Margaret arrives late to the house, after everyone explains her absence is due to the flu. Jenny talks to Margaret about her situation, but her elder sister makes it quite clear that she has no intention of staying to take care of her father, who she resents, or of giving up her life as a magazine writer in London, which she also secretly hates. As a result, Jenny calls off her relationship with David since she has no hope of marrying him.
Margaret is visually unhappy and drowns her sorrows in alcohol. In separate discussions with her siblings, she reveals that she has been an unmarried mother but that her four-year-old son has recently died of meningitis. That is why she has turned to alcohol. Martin has no knowledge of Margaret’s son, nor his death. Each of the siblings perceives their father as a religious maniac who will not understand anything unconventional and will disapprove of each of their respective situations.
Regardless of their father’s perceived feelings, Margaret and Michael decide they do not want to be with him and their two aunts, Lydia (Margaret Halstan) and Bridget (Maureen Delany), on Christmas Eve. They decide to go out to the movies. However, Maureen desires to have a drink and they eventually end up at a pub where they get drunk. When they return home, it results in a scene as some members of the family disapprove of such behavior. On Christmas morning, Margaret announces that she is leaving immediately. Michael argues with his father and declares that he questions the existence of God. He also tells Martin about Margaret’s son, including that the boy’s father died during the war.
Martin confronts Margaret about her son. However, it turns out that Martin is not a tyrannical parent or religious fanatic after all. Martin is very understanding of her problems because he has helped people with similar issues throughout his career. Martin expresses his sympathies towards Margaret, and acts devastated when he learns of the child’s passing.
Martin is devastated to learn that each of his children see him as unapproachable. Margaret communicates that she too has become an atheist based on her relationship with her father. However, Martin and Margaret’s heart to heart talk resolves many of their issues. Margaret decides to stay in Wyndenham to live with her father. This allows Jenny to marry David and go to South America with him. Michael gives into this father’s request that he will go to university at the completion of his national service. The entire family goes to Christmas morning services overseen by Martin, their family issues resolved.
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