God and Family First.
Gloria Rubin and Eric LaSalle play Brenda and Jack, the divorced parents of happily married Alicia. We learn from Alicia’s voice-over in the beginning that when her family put God and family first, they were happy. But when her two parents started getting too involved in their careers, they grew apart and when she was twelve they divorced and virtually ceased contact with each other.
As the title and the trailers suggest, this is about the parents finding each other once again after many years apart. But it is also about Alicia’s and her husband Arnold’s marriage as well. While at first their marriage seems solid we see fairly quickly that there are subtle cracks. Arnold is way too flattered when a pretty girl smiles at him. Alicia is way too involved in her parents’ lives, to the point that Arnold feels like he is losing his wife and the intimacy of their relationship. The father dates quite a lot, but when things get serious, he breaks up with them. The mother has no interest in dating, insisting she is fulfilled by her career, NOT LONELY, and is happy on her own. Except she is not on her own. Whenever she feels at loose ends, she goes over to Alicia and Arnold’s house or calls Alicia on the phone. Alicia sees what is happening but can’t and won’t distance herself from her mother. She is very conflicted. When she wants time alone with her husband she does not appreciate her mother’s presence. But when her mother does not have time for her, she is not happy with that either. She keeps saying the right things but keeps doing very foolish things, pushing her loving husband to the limit. Brenda finally wakes up to her pattern of behavior thanks to her own mother who leads a very active social life (the wonderful BJ Harrison) and agrees to “get back out there.” Brenda and Jack, using the same dating app, accidentally meet on a blind date with each other.
This is a movie that deals with challenging relationship problems between couples in love and between parents and children. It is about the impact of divorce. Not everything is black and white with easy solutions. There is a lot of conversation and many one step forward, two steps back situations with both couples. Although both couples have their happy endings, it does not come easily until the end when the carefully constructed challenges and problems collapse into a pile of mush. But before that, this is a Hallmark that is very (very) unusual. It is well-written and well-acted.
Criticism of Hallmark reached a crescendo this last Christmas. Great exception was taken by some to ignoring God and religion (Christianity) in Christmas movies. In one movie, the carolers La-la-la-ed their way through a Christmas carol about Jesus, which was, indeed, ridiculous. This sense of betrayal is also all mixed up with Hallmark featuring mixed-race couples and Gay couples. I hope the disaffected take note of this one. Although not preachy at all or overtly religious, it is not shy about the role of the church and the importance of putting God and family first in life. No, it’s not the only way to lead a good fulfilling life or to have a successful happy relationship. But it is one way. And this movie is an affirmation of that path.
March 27, 2022