Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Tonight's Movie: A Veteran's Christmas (2018)

This year, for obvious reasons, many of us are a bit worn out as we approach the holiday season. I don't think there could be a better balm for a pandemic-weary soul than watching A VETERAN'S CHRISTMAS (2018) from the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel and spending time in the warm and welcoming town of Rivers Crossing.

Marine Captain Grace Garland (Eloise Mumford) is newly arrived back in the United States after a lengthy deployment working on search and rescue missions in Afghanistan.

It's a challenging transition, as Grace is mourning being separated from her longtime K9 partner, named Christmas, and the only family she has left is her brother.  After buying a used car, Grace is headed to a new job in Cincinnati when the car breaks down and crashes into a snowbank.

The silver lining in Grace's very bad day is that she's crashed next to the home of the town judge, Joe Peterson (Sean Faris).  Joe is a helpful, friendly man who not only introduces Grace to his uncle (Richard Waugh), the town mechanic, but he offers to let her stay in a small cabin on his property while she's waiting for her car to be fixed.

Joe seemingly knows everyone in town, and before she knows it Grace is sucked into the life of Rivers Crossing as everyone prepares for Christmas.  Grace gets to know Joe's family and friends as she helps with decorating, goes to church, ice skates, and helps distribute Christmas trees to her fellow vets at the local army base. 

Joe's friend Cooper (Jacob Blair), the sheriff, even offers Grace a job heading the county's search and rescue department.  It all seems perfect, as Grace and Joe are developing feelings for one another...the only fly in the proverbial ointment is that Joe's ex-fiancee Marnie (Miriam McDonald) has just returned to town and might want to try to to pick up where their relationship left off.

Faris and Mumford, who previously costarred in CHRISTMAS WITH HOLLY (2012), look relatably like people any of us might have as friends, and they have excellent chemistry; his quirky, positive personality perfectly offsets Grace's initial reticence and tentativeness as she begins to re-acclimate to civilian life.  

Joe initially almost seems too good to be true, but as the movie goes on both Grace and the viewer realize he's the real deal.  The pair have an immediate connection and easy way of bantering, such as when Grace asks as they leave church, "Are you aware of the deep concern in this parish over your marital status?"

And as an aside, it's so nice to see going to church presented as something that's part of the regular rhythm of life for these characters....it stands out because that seems increasingly rare in modern-day films.

Mumford is particularly good in a deeply felt performance, as Grace deals with the loneliness of being separated from her dog and her military unit; she does a wonderful job conveying Grace unwinding and her pain receding as she begins to feel happy with Joe and at home in Rivers Crossing.  Grace's last scene is quite predictable, but the emotions were completely earned and deeply felt.

Amanda Lisman is particularly charming as Joe's sister Katie, a whirlwind who first meets Grace when she shows up with with dresses for Grace to try on and borrow to wear to church.  She was a ray of sunshine, and I hope Lisman will do more for Hallmark in the future.  At the time the movie aired Lisman was interviewed by Ruth Hill.

A VETERAN'S CHRISTMAS hits all the expected notes in a Hallmark Christmas film, but as I've written here before, the joy is in the journey and discovering the unique things filmmakers bring to a Christmas movie.  In this case the story is particularly compelling, and my time in Rivers Crossing was over far too quickly.

The movie was written and directed by Mark Jean.  It was filmed by Russ Goozee, with Ontario, Canada, standing in for Rivers Crossing, USA.

A VETERAN'S CHRISTMAS is available on DVD.  It is also airing on the Hallmark Channel during the Christmas season.

2 Comments:

Blogger Irene said...

Because I don't have cable I get a lot of the Hallmark Christmas DVD's from the library - I wish they had more but at least they have some. Much to my surprise they did have this one and I just watched it. I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this one. Some of the Hallmark movies are a little too pat for me and others, like this one, really hit the mark. The acting was more natural and the story line was not as similar as others. So thanks for reviewing this so I could pick it out!

12:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm delighted to hear that, Irene! I say it often but it bears repeating, nothing makes me happier than to discuss a film here and then learn someone else has enjoyed it as a result. Very happy it "hit the spot" for you and hope others will enjoy it as well.

Best wishes,
Laura

1:16 PM  

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