A Darling Family Story
I really liked this Hallmark movie when it first came out in 2020 but never reviewed it. With the Hallmark assembly line of new movies slowing to a crawl, I’m reaching back to some past favorites that I can re-watch without pain or boredom and review. Christmas with the Darlings focuses on family dynamics and the struggle of a younger son to escape from his irresponsible past and become a full-fledged contributor to his family and the family business.
An excellent script is bolstered by a great cast led by Katrina Law, Carlo Marks, and a personal favorite Steve Bacic. Steve (Charles) learns that his late middle brother’s three orphaned children can no longer stay with their relatives in Australia and their guardianship has fallen to him and his irresponsible youngest brother, Max. Unfortunately, he is leaving on a lengthy trip abroad for business so he sees no other alternative, given the flighty partying nature of little brother Max, to put them in a boarding school over Christmas. Fortunately, he has a long-time personal assistant in Katrina Law (Jess) who is not having it. She will soon be leaving her current role to be a lawyer in the corporation and convinces Charles to let her devote her last vacation to taking care of the kids for the Christmas season and showing the 3 orphans a good time. As Steve leaves the country, I reluctantly had to swallow that he was not the love interest. Boo Hoo. Oh well. Max steps up to the plate and Jess soon learns that there is more to Max the goofball than meets the eye. He has done a lot of maturing when no one was paying attention. The kids love both him and Jess. Max has always had a crush on Jess but thought he wasn’t good enough for her. (And he would have been right.) Now Jess is returning his feelings. When Charles comes home he has the opportunity to see Max’s hidden depths, especially since both he and Jess are responsible for wowing a potential client with their family-centric old-fashioned Christmas party instead of the sophisticated affair that he had originally planned. Unfortunately, Max has done too good a job at proving himself because Charles makes him the liaison of the Taiwan division which means he will be separated from Jess and the Children. (Don’t worry, (as if) he doesn’t get on the plane but still has a good future with the company and with Jess) This one could really use a sequel, unlike so many Hallmark sequels that should never have been.
I was initially disappointed that Steve Bacic was not the main man, but he really made the most of his role as the tough brother and boss, but who really wanted to do the right thing for the children. He was a good man as well as a great and successful businessman. His priorities were just temporarily out of whack. Carlo really won me over as the love interest. He conveyed his yearning for Jess, his love for the children, his regret at disappointing his family in the past, and the conflict of wanting to make his brother proud, but sadness of having to leave Jess and the kids. And the kids were great too. They each had their own personality(!).
It is worth noting That this was one of the first of the Hallmark Christmas offerings to include a gay romance, however secondary it was. Jess’s best friend Zoe, a shy surgeon, has a crush on a bartender, Kate, that we see is definitely returned. Not a lot is made of it but it is unapologetically there and very sweet. Later in this 2020 season, a gay couple is featured prominently as a main couple. That movie incurred all kinds of wrath and bitterness (and happy support and praise.) This one was like, “Let’s put this one in there and get people used to it one step at a time. By the end of the season, they won’t even know what hit em’.” Well, people did notice and many were not amused. Reviewing this halfway through 2022, I am proud of Hallmark. They deserve a lot of credit for doubling down on all kinds of diversity despite boycotts and even a rival “family-friendly” network starting up and wooing away some of their top stars. They have not backed down, and I even see by the previews that they are premiering a black-centric (is that a word?) series of movies called “Mahogany” this August on their Murders and Mysteries. So, “Yay,” Hallmark and “yay” Christmas in July.
July 6, 2022