Keeping it Real
This was a top-tier Hallmark presentation on par with the best of this year’s Christmas chronicles. And there have been some great ones in 2021. It was almost like a real movie in that it wasn’t just a string of set-pieces held together by clichés. 5 high school friends, 3 still local, get together to honor their recently deceased drama teacher who had an impact on all of their lives. We follow the five friends’ stories as they each deal with their individual challenges while thinking back on their teacher’s past advice. The flashbacks to their high school drama class were superfluous and the teacher’s wisdom was nothing but platitudes but I was very engaged by three of the individual journeys and fairly interested in the other two.
Avery is the one who pushes the four friends to reconnect while patiently and persistently battling their indifference or excuses. She is teaching psychology at the University of Michigan but wants to open her own practice there. Her mother is very overbearing and controlling, but Avery lives her own life in spite of that. She is not a wimp, but she wants her mother to stop. Her mother wants her to keep teaching and move back closer to their Virginia town. She is dead set against Avery opening her own practice. To that end, she actually sends Avery’s resume to the U of V behind her back which results in an awkward convo with the head of HR. Avery is furious and stands up to her mother, who still doesn’t get it (she is actually proud of herself). Her behavior threatens to lead to permanent estrangement. The wise father intervenes and reminds his wife how she was treated by her own mother, who insisted on her way or the highway and how that made her feel. She finally gets it. Don’t ask me why he didn’t speak to his wife 10 years ago. She apologizes to her daughter. ” I guess I learned that love was control and I am learning now that you can’t have both love and control. You have to pick one, and I choose love.” It was a great scene.
Avery is in love with Ben, who is struggling in his business and his personal life. He has pushed away all of his friends and his brother. He has a lot of rage, and we don’t find out what the source of that rage is that makes him act like a petulant toddler throughout most of the movie. When we finally do, it is underwhelming. I didn’t like or sympathize with him at all.
The other story I loved is about the two childhood sweethearts who married each other. The wife is trying to complete her hospital residency so she can take over her father’s medical practice. While she is doing that, her very wonderful husband is a stay-at-home Dad to their two kids and takes care of the house (which is quite the MacMansion considering the family’s lack of income.) She is busy busy busy, but also has a lot of guilt that, understandably, the children are closer to their Dad than her. This was a very adult, realistic story. The Dad loves to bake and when he is encouraged to start a business by the 5th friend, Mia, he is a little reluctant, but is kind of excited too, and goes along with it. His wife finds out and gets angry that he didn’t consult her first and everyone knows but her. “We are leading separate lives”. However, they love each other, the marriage is solid, and she has been making an effort to get away from the hospital to reconnect with her old schoolmates. And her husband. She turns around very quickly which may or may not have something to do with her taking care of the kids by herself for 4 hours. She also probably realizes that without her husband, she would be in a major pickle. Her apology speech to her treasure of a husband was really something.
Mia is a struggling actress who unbeknownst to her friends, is not making it in the big city. Her story was not as interesting and it is tidily resolved at the end. It was one story too many. There was one aspect to her story that was a bit disturbing if I interpreted what was going on correctly.
Most of the characters, even the secondary ones, were not cardboard cutouts. They were layered with both strengths and weaknesses. The movie was well structured with everyone having their beginning, middle, and end. It was a real winner with nice acting from all and great direction and writing.
December 20, 2021