Open by Christmas

Fantastic!

Once again, Hallmark is raising the bar, as this entry in the Hallmark Christmas movie sweepstakes demonstrates. Although many of their new movies follow the usual pattern, many have not. This one, for example, features a dual storyline of two best friends who have separate and different challenges to overcome. It leaves the well-worn and predictable path in some refreshing ways.

Simone is getting ready to marry her fiance during the Christmas season. She is conflicted because her 15-year-old son is growing up and, she thinks, away from her. He is bonding too almost too well with her fiance! Both of them spend more time with each other than with her.  In response, she becomes clingy and tense. To add to the strained atmosphere, her future mother-in-law will be visiting and she doesn’t like her, thinking her too critical.

Her friend, Nicky, played by Alison Sweeney who is wonderful in this, is coming home for Christmas. Right away, this one got my attention. When her parents tell her fearfully that they are selling her childhood home, instead of weeping and wailing and trying to “save” it, she is all for it! Hallmark indulging in a little inside self-deprecating humor?  Anyway, Nicky is a confirmed single woman who finds an anonymous Christmas love letter that was written to her when she was in high school. Nicky always felt she was an outsider during her high school years and thinks of those years with embarrassment and regret. In part, it is why she has remained single. She has been afraid of rejection and never put herself “out there.” The letter shows her that maybe she was mistaken in her perspective. The two friends go on a mission to find the letter writer, and Nicky learns that most of her classmates admired and liked her and her impact was positive.

Brennan Elliot, playing against type as an awkward, shy, and a little too eager real-estate agent plays Nicky’s love interest. He was very winning in this role and the two have super chemistry. Lacey Chabert should be jealous. It is telegraphed right away that he is the letter writer. I will not go further into the plot as it is complex and many-layered and this review would be very long. What made it great was the unexpected ways things developed. The two friends do not pander to each other and tell each other the truth no matter how unpleasant. “Be a normal person!” They get genuinely hurt by upset and with each other but in the way of true friends do not let things fester. The mother-in-law is set up to be over-critical and unpleasant. They do clash, but she ends up being supportive and gives Simone good advice. There was an interesting shocker when it is revealed that Jeremy, Simone’s fiance is the one who wrote Nicky the love letter! What?! Wait!

 It was heartwarming. It was suspenseful.  It had some important lessons to impart.  It was humorous. “Nothing says “Christmas” like a tamale!” And best of all, there was no meaningless Christmas filler. Every scene was important and advanced the plot. There were a couple of things I could be snarky about but I won’t.  It was fantastic.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

November 21, 2021

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