When nothing short of a miracle can hold a deteriorating family together, a Christmas getaway sets the stage for a miracle to occur. A heartwarming family story of love, loss, and rediscovery.
First of all, I somewhat dragged my heels in watching this film, I must admit. My mom watched it first and encouraged me to watch and review it, and I finally sat down and viewed it after Christmas. And all I can say is–why did I wait so long to watch this gem? It is beyond what I expected, and this is probably the best new UP Christmas film this year. I also understand that this film is based on a book (which I have yet to read, but my mom and I have it placed on our “to be read” lists).
The undeniable star of this film is Jaeda as she is the narrator, and in so many ways, she sets things in motion for the magical story to unfold. As Emily, she is unquestionably a delight. While I often find myself declaring a child actress as a natural, this sweetheart already has quite a list of credits. You might recognize her from A Cookie Cutter Christmas, The Christmas Secret, Love Under the Stars, and even The Unauthorized Full House Story. More than likely, viewers will remember this vivacious girl, and in this film, she is given a golden role that demonstrates just how talented she is. And it is her character that comprehends the astonishing ending and convinces everyone else about the miracle that has occurred. But my favorite scene is towards the beginning where Emily prays that her parents will not get a divorce. Frankly, her acting is so marvelous and credible that I almost found myself shedding a tear right along with her.
As the unexpected house guests, the Tucker family, this quartet of actors is exceptional. While I have never seen either of the children (played by Kolton and Alexandra), they are completely captivating in their roles. After all, these are the people who are supposed to model for the Montgomery family how a family who loves each other should behave, relate, and interact, and these two are perfect for that role. While it appears that Kolton has some experience, Alexandra seems to be the newbie. Here’s hoping that we see both of these gifted young people featured in another film and/or show soon.
But at the heart of the Tucker family is this pleasant couple, Amy and Joe. I have seen Catherine in numerous things (most recently, Autumn Dreams as the judge–a most memorable role as a matter of fact), and I have seen Colin in a few works (Hitched for the Holidays, A Mother’s Nightmare). Both of these actors are seasoned professionals, and their performances are especially authentic. They are such a dynamic part of this story; in face, all the actors who characterize this incredible family are never artificial nor overdone in their portrayals. The Tucker family is an outstanding reminder that families are intended to love and strengthen each other (and it is possible), and also, tomorrow is never guaranteed, so never put off a kind word or gesture until tomorrow when you have the opportunity to fulfill it today.
Of course, at the opening of the film, it is the Montgomery family who is fractured. The children (and father) cannot lay aside their electronics, and trying to savor each other’s company is more than they can tolerate. Thankfully, the Tucker family’s sudden arrival alters all that in a matter of two days (which is a miracle in itself).
In addition to the Jaeda’s fantastic depiction of Emily, we are treated to the talents of Lizzie Boys as Emily’s older sister, Jennifer, and Nick Purcha as her older brother, Alexander. While I have not seen Nick in anything else, I just noticed that he is scheduled to be in the next installment of Garage Sale Mystery. On the other hand, Hearties (fans of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart) will no doubt remember Lizzie as Cassandra (I only vaguely remember as it’s been awhile since I have seen it). Regardless, both young actors play their part expertly and fit into the overall family network with ease.
While I reveled in every moment of this matchless film, it did not become a prominent favorite until the jolting conclusion. I refuse to spoil it for anyone, but I had no inkling of the veritable bombshell that came right towards the end until it happened. There were occasional clues dropped, and the second time I watched the film, I perceived everything differently. I was left in total awe of the ending as I don’t think I ever would have suspected it nor thought that way. It was an absolute delight to witness how God does answer prayers but not always in the way you may think. My mom and I both discussed afterward about whether anything like this could happen in reality, and we decided while chances would be slim, God could work however He wanted, and the outcome of this film corroborates this.
Of course, this is the duo that is the very essence of the film. Judith and Charles are the couple that seems to have been struggling for some time, and the viewers instantly sense that dissolution or divorce may be imminent. It is only throughout the course of the film that the viewers discover the source of the discord, but again, I don’t want to spoil it for you. All I will say is that the addition of the Tuckers to this family conclave is what ultimately begins to open up the lines of communication between the various members and create a glimmer of hope to pierce the darkness.
No doubt you probably recognize Kristy from her extensive assortment of screen appearances on Hallmark, Lifetime, and so many other networks. Kristy is never typecast, and she always rises to the occasion no matter the film, genre, or role (my current personal favorite is Driven Underground). As Judith, she is credible, authentic, and fully immersed in her role of the disconsolate, listless wife, and mother who simply wants to have a family Christmas that reminds her of the happy days of yore. But Kristy has that knack of sincere plausibility despite the role. She is a consummate professional, and versatility streams from her soul and resonates with viewers. For anyone who has ever experienced a devastating blow that caused depression and a potentially irreparable rift in a relationship, he/she will find himself/herself empathizing with Kirsty since she plays Judith from her heart. Furthermore. all of her interactions with her character’s children ring true. And as you can see in the above picture, she has a smile that is so genuine it could soften the very hardest of hearts or bring sunshine to the gloomiest of skies.
Of course, Chris Potter has quite a sizable amount of works to his resume, and although I have only seen him in passing on Heartland and Good Witch, his reputation precedes him (my mom loves him in Heartland–I just haven’t had a chance to watch like she has). As Charles, Chris immerses himself completely into this defeated man who is consumed by business because he cannot face the family tragedy that has adversely affected everyone. He is purported to be the leader of this family, but he escapes through his work. He is only present in body, and I think that too many families can identify with situations just like this. Chris is flawless in this role, and I finally was able to see just what an unimpeachable professional he is.
Together, Kristy and Chris have a magnificent kind of chemistry that the audience gets to see through the eyes of our sweet narrator (Jaeda). We see the concern that Kristy’s character has when Chris’s character may be seriously injured, and we see the way both characters respond when touched by the Tucker family. Chris is able to demonstrate in his signature way the very essence of the detached husband who only wants to mend his marriage and family but is not certain how to go about it. And in a very distinctive way, God opens the doors that as long as the couple walks through, true healing may be possible. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but I do believe you will adore the ending, and I never saw it as sappy. In fact, I was warmed from the inside out–exactly the kind of movie that is perfect for a cold, winter’s night with the family. And yes, this is a family-friendly film–nothing inappropriate.
Hopefully, this won’t reveal too much for anyone, but with all the negative images out there, isn’t it nice to see a family that truly wants to make a positive change? I realize that I am reviewing this film after Christmas, but as far as I am concerned, this is a film that could be watched any time. While a winter viewing is better, the truths this film imparts are timeless. Most importantly, don’t wait around for the ideal time to tell your loved ones what they mean to you. Do it today, for yesterday is a canceled check, tomorrow is a promissory note, and today is all we have. Moreover, keep the lines of communication open because the family that can talk through any issue with candor and understanding has the unparalleled chance of staying together.
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