Let’s begin with one of Norman’s cousins. Remember how he always has those infamously offbeat cousins who turn up in a variety of places? Well, early on in the film, we are introduced to Serge as played by Chris, and the scene is absolutely hilarious. This picture gives you just a taste of what to expect. I wasn’t sure I had seen Chris before, but his resume is quite extensive. In fact, I remember him from Hitched for the Holidays. As Serge, he is simply ideal–just an example of a cast member who knows how to make himself unforgettable.
And Jill has returned as that endearing mail carrier, Hazel, who is unwittingly responsible for the tension and sorrow existing between Shane and Oliver. But her bubbly personality makes it impossible to stay vexed with her. Again, a small role, but a fun actress in a zany part that won’t soon be obliterated.
All right, Postables, hold onto your hats. This lady could be a potential threat to the ultimate happiness of Oliver and Shane. But in the long run, I don’t think we have much to be worried about. Emilie plays Dale, a pivotal character who may be inadvertently responsible for minimal sadness and a truly funny moment between Shane and Oliver. The memory of her is longer than her actual time on the screen. More interesting than all that, it would seem that she made another appearance on the series some time ago as a completely different character. Regardless, there is no real chemistry between Dale and Oliver, so no reason to get too distraught, right?
As the nurse who will not bend the rules for anyone (until the right someone comes along), Candus plays that unyielding worker who is more concerned with protecting her patient than unearthing the truth. Interestingly enough, we saw her on another episode where she played the judge (I remember her now), and she played that same kind of role with as much austerity as she could muster. She was also featured in Mr. Miracle, so Hallmark has seen how well she plays these determined female roles, and it looks like her “star” is on the ascent. Rightfully so!
While I wouldn’t typically comment on such a minuscule role, Edwin is one of those actors who continues to pop up when I least expect him. No matter his part, he has a signature style that makes him memorable, and he has displayed that even in this role of the debate judge. You may have seen him featured in Dashing Through the Snow and even Ion TV’s film last week Heart Felt (my favorite role of his to date). I hope to see him featured in even bigger roles very soon–please Hallmark!
As per normal, much of this film is told in flashback, as we unravel the history behind a “lost” letter. You may recognize young Nick (playing young Ryan) from Angels in the Snow as well as the last Garage Sale Mystery. Chances are that Austin is a new face, however. Together they make up the teenage debate team where showmanship is valued above facts. Austin plays young Garrison, and while he is not on the screen much, he certainly deserves an honorable mention.
Nick depicts Ryan impeccably. From the debate team to the love story to the unbelievable tragedy, he is always in character and takes his role seriously. It is his actions that change a life (and several others) forever. But he is also a reminder that redemption is a possibility for all. Nothing is beyond the reach of the hand of God, and mistakes (even significant ones) are fundamentally forgivable, even though one must live with the consequences.
I couldn’t recall where I had seen Arielle (who plays the suspicious young Becca), but when I saw Stolen Daughter in her list of credits, I remembered immediately. And Mackenzie is another “Hearties” alumnus, and as young Maddie, she is superb. Becca is responsible for setting a few things in motion that lead to a tragedy, and Mackenzie is the one who possibly suffers more from Ryan’s actions than anyone else.
As the young debater, she has a wonderful smile, and there is no doubt that she is heartsick as reality takes her by storm. Ryan may not be coming back to claim her affections, and she only wants to know why. Sadly, a letter is lost, and fifteen years pass…
And it is Francoise who steps in as the adult Maddie. I won’t spoil this scene for you except to say, have a full box of tissues nearby.
Add in the brilliant Aaron as Governor Ryan (Dashing Through the Snow, A Country Wedding, When Calls the Heart), and this story is going to tug on your heartstrings so arduously that you may just weep for five minutes non-stop like I did.
While I am an emotional person, it is rare for me to bawl quite that much over a film. But it is the realistic storyline (dealing with drunk driving) and the phenomenal acting of both Aaron and Francoise (not to mention Nick and Mackenzie) that make this story one not to be forgotten.
Before discussing the Emmy-worthy acting of the four principals, let me take a moment and applaud Martha Williamson for a job indeed magnificently done. She is the creative genius behind this entire series, and the more I hear about her, the more I find myself in awe of her talent, heart, and passion. She has been called a role model for women and mothers (Crystal Lowe, during my interview with her), and my understanding is that she is very involved in every aspect of the filming. I have also overheard that she essentially has “church” whenever the cast and crew get together (Marika, during my interview with her).
In a world of goblins, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and gratuitous violence, one might wonder if there is even an audience for wholesome family entertainment with a strong faith-based message. Why would someone want to watch a show or a film with a message? Isn’t the purpose of television to be entertained?
Well, Martha is a veritable force who has decided that there is a viewership for such important messages. She is unabashedly Christian, and she refuses to back down from the message of hope her films continue to provide for viewers who long for television that is focused on changing one’s life and making one rethink one’s purpose on this earth. Oh, and if she entertains you along the way (which she does), that is the hallmark of a an exceptional virtuoso.
Martha holds fast to her principles and values, and no matter what, she does not shy away from tragedy and realistic events that some shows refuse to discuss. While the viewer will always walk away with an inspiring message of joy and hope, there are going to be hardships along the way that will seek to shake viewers to the very core of their being.
I thank Martha for her skillful writing and heartfelt storylines that continue to change people’s lives for eternity.
Of course, the central focus of the story for us Postables is the quartet of mail workers–Oliver, Shane, Norman, and Rita. And there is no doubt that this foursome will dazzle and thrill us again while putting us through the entire gamut of emotions due to their flawless characterizations and Martha Williamson’s profound stories.
In oh so many ways, this is a film where Geoff’s talent is put on display in a very credible way. Norman is given a special access to something that could alter the course of American history as we know it.
I won’t ruin it by disclosing exactly what this is, but Norman has some decisions to make, and this little bit of history aids him in that respect. Amazing how a relic from the past can shed new light on the digital age in which we live. In fact, remember that nurse I mentioned earlier in the review? When Norman is feeling a downcast and even questioning whether Rita still loves him (won’t say why), it is that nurse’s words and this antiquity that finally get through to him, and he knows what he must do.
Admittedly, Norman is devastated (even though he knows he shouldn’t be) because something unexpected whisks Rita away from him. Although it’s for a relatively short duration, it is poor timing, and he begins to distrust the direction of their relationship.
Of course, the viewers have fallen in love with Geoff’s depiction of the quirky postal worker who wears his heart on his sleeve, but tends to be socially gauche. His character can hunt down a rare stamp, but how on earth can he demonstrate to his beloved just how much he cares about her? With sincere tenderness and sensitivity, Geoff portrays Norman in such a way that our hearts break for him when he fears that Rita doesn’t care about him in the same way he does her. There is something about the facial expressions and mannerism that Geoff uses when portraying this soft-hearted, oftentimes indecisive guy that just carries the viewers right along with him on his emotional journey of self-discovery and heartbreak.
So what about Rita? Crystal is again so immersed in this character who is strong but sweet, brave but nonconfrontational, lovely but geeky. Crystal is the one who has infused this character with life in her own way, and viewers just cannot get enough of her. But even Rita gets overwhelmed in this episode. She and Norman are finally a couple (and one of the sweetest couples in television history–I adore watching their interactions), but destiny seems to have a sense of humor at times. Somehow, a lost dream is resurrected, but she has to act quickly. And in so doing, she neglects Norman, and he begins to worry that she no longer loves him.
I find it ironic that Norman and Rita are the exact opposite of a traditional relationship (if that even exists anymore). Typically, it is the female who worries about whether her man still loves her, and the man gets sidetracked with work or other interests. I applaud the show for creating a relationship that is nontraditional in every sense of the word, but one that proves that true love has no timetable nor set pattern. And this is a lesson both Norman and Rita are learning as they forge ahead in this relationship. Oh and fair warning, viewers, you might get a bit vexed with Rita (I will admit I did, but I understood her reasoning). In the end, true love and effective communication conquer all. And Crystal brings such an ardent humanity to Rita that anything she may have done wrong is easily forgiven. Couples are going to have problems, and each person must be ready to compromise and forgive, but no matter what, the lines of communication must always be open.
While Rita and Norman are having their share of issues, we cannot forget the couple who has been through more together in a few short years than most committed couples have experienced in a lifetime. Oliver and Shane are at a very different point in their lives now. Oliver is recently divorced, and Shane is free of her past love interest in Washington D.C. (Steve). So both are free, at least, in a sense. Neither one has opened their mouths to declare their love, and it is as though each one is awaiting the other’s move. It’s uncharted territory, and it makes things a bit dicey for both of them.
In the role with which I could always most closely identify, Kristin yet again plays an infallible Shane. She is as committed as ever to solving the riddles and puzzles that constantly seek her rapt attention, and there is nothing Shane likes better than a challenge. Unless it’s navigating the emotions of love and relationships in light of Valentine’s Day and Oliver. Kristin has become so comfortable in this role that I often forget she is merely playing the role. She has instilled so much of her being into this role that even those parts of Shane that may not genuinely be like her in real life seem to radiate from her innermost soul. She has seen the morphing and maturation of this complex character, and she always leaves me thoroughly enraptured. She is flawlessly beautiful, but she is also a kind, thoughtful, and pragmatic (but still mildly romantic) girl.
I can most closely identify with Shane’s view on Valentine’s Day. There is not much worse than knowing that the day for lovers is almost upon you, and the person you want more than anyone else in the world does not appear interested. Kristin is able to inject the perfect balance between being on pins and needles about Oliver but pretending not to care. The audience desperately wants to yell, “Shane! Tell him how you feel!” But Shane takes the high road and decides that if Oliver wants her, he will have to say something to her. Insert dramatic irony that makes this tension between her and Oliver heightened to the nth degree.
When it comes to doing her job, however, there is none better than Shane. Oliver has come to depend on her electronic investigative skills, and when concentrating on her work, she is never distracted. While Oliver may have no active interest in her, she has come to adore working at the DLO in the way few ever would. And the most fascinating observation is that she has begun to emulate Oliver. I won’t say any more on that, but keep an eye and ear out for what she says and does as well as the reactions of others at the post office, and I think you’ll see what I mean.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the story comes near the end when Shane enters Oliver’s church. Now, I will not spoil anything, but just know that Shane bravely enters with a purpose and comes face to face with something that could spell utter doom for their relationship that has not even begun. While the official Biblical references are lacking in this film, we are inundated with heavenly Biblical references, and Shane darkens the doorway of a church for the first time without having investigative reasons as her focus.
Truly, my favorite character (and always has been)–Oliver O’Toole. Eric always holds a special place in my heart because without his response to my first “celebrity tweet,” I know for certain I would not be where I am now. Moreover, his character is one with whom I can readily identify due to Oliver’s love of the English language, poetry and the classics, and his keen sense of right and wrong. I have always been mesmerized with Eric’s masterful portrayal of this straight-laced, genuinely old-fashioned gentlemanly character, and again, he overwhelms me with his talent.
One of the things I most appreciate about phenomenal artists like Eric is the way in which they are able to take a role and make it their own. Eric has taken the role of Oliver to a new level in each and every film. I always figure I cannot like Oliver more, but then he surprises me with another little nuance or detail that was not apparent in the last film. Eric has truly studied the mind of his character and so immersed himself fully into this man’s psyche that he knows what makes him tick and how he should respond in every situation. And the tremendous thing is that Eric is able to make it look so effortless.
Oliver has been through so much in the past few years, and now he is free and able to act on what he might be feeling towards Shane. But the question is–will he? I won’t ruin it for you, but I simply adore the fact that he is attempting to be a chivalrous gentleman and not pressure Shane in any way. I also adore the fact that as Shane and Rita have been early confidantes, Oliver has begun to lean on Norman for support. While he has given Norman sage advice in the past couple films, Oliver actually goes to Norman for “guy talk.” You wouldn’t think Oliver needed it, but at the end of the day, he is still a guy. He is prim and proper to the core, but we have begun to see him loosen up. As he has influenced Shane, Shane has been a deep influence on him.
Perhaps Oliver has finally developed a sense of humor as he attempted to do so long ago. (Don’t you just love it when Eric smiles?)
Needless to say, this is what Postables have been awaiting with baited breath. What about Oliver and Shane dating? Will it finally happen? They are both unattached and should be ready to move on. But will they? Or is this just a simple dinner between two friends?
I’ll let the viewers be the judge of that.
But one thing Postables can count is that these two are hearkening back to an earlier time in their friendship.
Yes, Oliver and Shane dance. And what is said on the dance floor will probably make every Postable shriek in excitement. After all, we know they are both incurable romantics. They are just a little apprehensive to move ahead. But thankfully, they have each other, and I don’t know about you, but as they set out on this journey together about whether they will ultimately become lifelong mates, I’m not worried about outside influences nor old relationships. It is a new start for both Oliver and Shane. Oh, and just wait till you see what Shane does on the dance floor. Something happens that is unexpected but absolutely delightful in the extreme. Furthermore, it is an excellent sign that things are beginning to be set in motion for both of them. I know I have never discussed the chemistry between Kristin and Eric, but do I need to?
So be sure to tune in Sunday, February 21, to the Hallmark Mysteries & Movies network for one of the most glorious stories I have ever seen about tragedy, triumph, and the real possibility of redemption for all.
For more information: