A Christmas Hallmark Heaven
I’m not going to lie, I’m very proud of myself - this year I’ve gone all out and have sat through thousands of minutes of the most gloriously awful Christmas movies - and it was worth (almost) every minute. And if your looking for some recommendations for something to watch over the festive period, read on…
It might have been the freezing weather and the lure of snuggling on the sofa with the fire roaring. It might have been the endless round of Instagram pastiches of people pitching their Christmas film ideas. I’m sure that a low menopausal mood probably also had something to do with it. But this year, I made it my mission to watch as many cheesy - and in many cases, badly acted - Hallmark style festive films as possible.
Why would a media graduate, who should be watching “À Bout De Souffle” or dissecting “Citizen Kane” again, really agree to such an undertaking? I’ll tell you why - it’s the feel-good factor baby! In much the same way that after a long and tortuous day in the office I immediately slip into something funny (podcasts, tv shows, films - I ain’t fussy), I think after what has been a ludicrously crazy - and to be honest - pretty shit 3 years, I just want to feel good.
I have spent hours scouring Amazon Prime, Netflix and Apple TV* for the perfect, tried and tested Hallmark formula films. To be honest, this endeavour starting in the autumn when I attempted to gorge on “fall” films where the standard premise seemed to be about a big-city hot-shot daughter returning home to be gifted her dying aunts chocolate shop - which just so happens to be the centre of all the towns activities and also stages the annual fall chocolate festival. And she obviously falls in love along the way with her childhood enemy – who conveniently already works at the chocolate shop.
There’s just something so heart-warming about the towns in which all of these films are set. Cute, American versions of chocolate box villages, where everyone knows everyone and all the town elders are enamoured with the hunky local handyman - who they will set up with the returning prodigy - the only woman to have left the town, following her dreams to a city that the townsfolk all view with trepidation.
I’m pretty sure that after every film I’ve watched, I’ve decided that we’re going to up sticks and buy a house in a countryside town - where the snow falls beautifully and deep (so obviously not moving to the English countryside then). I’ll open up a bookstore/coffee shop/sweet shop/art gallery type affair and will charm the locals with my exceptional skills in all of these areas (skills I am yet to uncover - though I do bake a pretty good cupcake), before taking on a wicked developer who wants to buy me out of my land in order to create a tourist attraction out of my charming little hamlet.
After all that viewing (and honestly, I haven’t stopped yet), I needed to do something with what I’ve learned about these films. So apart from writing my own script (seriously, I have ideas), I’m sharing with you (in no particular order) some of the gems I’ve watched in the past month, in case you need some Christmas inspiration. Be warned though, some of these are seriously cheesy…
The Noel Diary (2022) - a famous author and a mysterious stranger go on the hunt for answers about their past - obviously falling in love on the way. How connected to Christmas it is, I don’t know (apart from the title and the fact that it’s set at Christmas).
Christmas Under Wraps (2014) - a proper Hallmark film this one. A high-flying doctor has no choice but to move to a small remote Alaskan town to complete her residency. Whilst there, she heals all the locals (and I mean all of them, multiple times - seriously this is a sick and accident-prone town); falls in love and uncovers the towns festive secret (clue: that big jolly white bearded owner of the local shipping company may not be all he seems).
Love Hard (2021) - I won’t lie. I didn’t finish this one. Had so much promise but a catfished woman turned catfish - just in time for the holiday season - just didn’t do it for me.
A Castle for Christmas (2021) - glorious! It’s got Brooke Shields being fabulous and Cary Elwes being all grouchy (I will forgive Westley anything). And it’s set in Scotland! Obviously, a bit more money spent on this one, as there is proper acting, credits and direction. More please.
The Knight Before Christmas (2019) - who doesn’t want a time travelling medieval knight from Norwich turning up in a small town in America over Christmas to woo the disillusioned with love Vanessa Hudgens? Maximum points for the ludicrous storyline.
A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019) - wouldn’t be Christmas without a panto-based film. Aspiring singer working as an elf at Santa Land falls in love with the charming Father Christmas who just happens to be the music producing son of the owner of Santa Land - I mean, what are the chances?? Throw in some mean old stepsisters and a fairy-tale showdown is set.
Christmas Together (2020) - it’s got Vivica A Fox in - that’s a good sign, right? RIGHT? Wrong, wrong, wrong… A young artist spends her Christmas renting a guest cabin in sunny California (well the town of Tinsel actually) because her arse of a boyfriend “needs” to spend the time in Las Vegas for “work”. She falls in love with the widowed guest house owner, by spending far too much time making friends with his daughter and neighbour. The acting is AWFUL - am pretty sure the guest house owner is a catalogue model because I can imagine him in Y fronts pointing moodily into the distance. Avoid.
Just in Time for Christmas (2015) - when a Christmas film has Christopher Lloyd and William Shatner in, I’m there with popcorn and front row seats. With a Sliding Doors plot and romantic leads who I did actually like, a psychology professor has an opportunity to see how her life might turn out if she accepts a position at a prestigious university, leaving her local coffee shop owning boyfriend behind to find a new love. This is definitely on my recommend list.
Return to Christmas Creek (2018) - another Hallmark special. A young CEO seeks inspiration for a new app - and the spirit of Christmas - by returning home to reunite with her childhood friend. Whilst she’s there, she heals the family’s long-standing rift, falls in love with her friend, solves her app problem and flies a plane. I didn’t hate it.
Small Town Christmas (2018) - another author, this time being sent to promote her Christmas book in the town that inspired it. Just so happens that she was inspired by an ex-colleague’s description of his hometown - and he just happens to be there running the local bookshop and just waiting for her to fall back in love with him. Oh, and some evil developers are on hand to try to make some money out of this Christmas loving town.
And with that, my schmaltzy Hallmark Christmas movie list is complete (for the moment). I’m going to go get myself a glass of something fizzy, stuff a minced pie into my mouth and dream about my toffee shop, where my husband and I will win the towns annual competition for outstanding services to Christmas.
*I know there’s a Hallmark channel, but we gave up our Virgin Media package partly because I hated them and partly because we never watched it. All hail smart TV’s.