Past is Prologue
When I read what this was about, I started watching it fully expecting to turn it off. It is about a mother whose teenage daughter has passed away who befriends the daughter of a single widower. Before she died, Toni, the daughter, released a balloon in the air with a short letter searching for a best friend. It is found by 13-year-old Grace two years later who was forced to move into their new town by her father because of his job. He didn’t consult her about the move, and she is resentful. Their relationship has suffered over and above normal teenager/parent friction. She is having trouble fitting in at school and making friends. When Grace follows the notes invitation to write back, I thought I saw where this might be going. I was on high alert and expecting to pull the plug as I did not want to get entangled in a maudlin grief fest and a mother trying to replace her dead child with a vulnerable live one.
Well, it didn’t go that way at all. The mother, Noelle, does respond to Grace’s letter, but under her own name. It is true that she does not tell Grace that Toni has died nor that she is her mother but I felt it was out of empathy and sensitivity and that she did not want to hurt or discomfort Grace. She responds to Grace’s emails a couple of more times, but, realizing that this is heading down a dangerous road, tells Grace the truth about who she is and kindly tells her that there will be no more emails. She thinks that is the end of it, But to Noelle’s consternation, Grace shows up at Noelle’s door still wanting to be friends with Toni. Noelle still can’t bear to tell her right then that her daughter has passed away. But shortly thereafter, along with Grace’s dad, Jack (Michael Rady), who she has gotten to know and like thanks to a series of coincidences, does tell her the truth about Toni’s passing. This decision of not to prolong the misunderstanding flies in the face of how things usually go with Hallmark stories. Grief is to be wallowed in, and open communication is to be avoided at all costs. So instead of the plot getting stalled over a prolonged deception and lack of truth-telling, the plot explores other aspects of the characters’ progress toward peace and happiness. We follow Grace’s path towards success in school and making friends, Her father’s possible romantic entanglement with a neighbor, Jack and Grace’s continuing frustrations with each other and how they resolve them, and Noelle coming to terms with her imminent divorce. And of course Noelle and Jack possibly making a romantic connection. There is another crisis later in the story where it looks like Grace and Michael may have to move away again, negating the progress toward healing that, together, all three of the main characters have made. How it is all resolved brings all of the threads together in a touching way. It hints that it was more than just coincidences that brought these three together for their own good and the good of the community. Perhaps a little celestial magic and angelic guiding hands were at play as well. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” There is a lot of Shakespeare in this as well.
All of the actors did a wonderful job, but special kudos go to Erica Tremblay, a serious young actress who has appeared in several other Hallmark movies. I’ve always liked Michael Rady. Erica Durance not so much, but she is a good actress.