Because my Hallmark Movies & Mysteries related content has been well-received, I try to make an effort to write about Hallmark’s mystery films whenever I can. Since the only new mystery movie to premiere this month is Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, I wanted to review it. So far, I have been impressed with this particular series. The first two films, A Beautiful Place to Die: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery and Riddled with Deceit: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery were in my Honorable Mentions on my list of the best movies I saw last year! They were such a strong start to a new series, that I couldn’t wait to see the rest of the story unfold! Jeff and Zee, the lead characters of Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, make a good mystery solving team. It also helps that the scenery is nice to look at. Now, let’s set sail through this review of Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: As I said in the introduction, Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery is the third film in the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series. Because of this, the main cast from the previous films also star in the newest installment. It works in the cast’s favor, as it allows each actor and actress to become familiar with their characters. While watching this movie, I could tell the members of the main cast were comfortable in their roles. This included Jesse Metcalfe and Sarah Lind! They both adopted an on-screen personality that complimented their characters. Jesse and Sarah had good on-screen chemistry as well. With each new film in a mystery series comes new supporting actors. One of them was Garfield Wilson. Portraying a local artist named Carl, Garfield gave a performance that was memorable! When Jeff and Zee inform Carl that Bernie, an art studio manager, has passed away, Carl becomes distraught. With a strong sense of emotionality, Garfield was effectively able to show how much Bernie meant to his character.
Including an overarching story: An overarching story within the Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series is the mystery of who shot Jeff in the back prior to his retirement from the Boston Police. The inclusion of this story gives the series a sense of continuity. What also helps is allowing pieces of the mystery to be discovered as the series progresses. In Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, Jeff comes across a breakthrough as he reflects on the past with Zee. While I won’t spoil this part of the story, it does give the audience something to look forward to for the next film!
Creative set design choices: While watching Hallmark films, I always enjoy seeing the interesting set design choices from the various sets of a given movie. With Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there were some interior and exterior design choices that I found visually appealing! In one scene, Jeff visits a restaurant in the hopes of meeting Zee there for dinner. Even though the main entrance features a plain glass door, its black frame pairs nicely with the gray stone exterior wall. This wall can also be seen inside the restaurant, complimenting the warm wood counter located nearby. In another scene, Jeff is using a punching bag on his porch. I have rarely seen punching bags found in outside spaces when it comes to cinema. So, this design choice was definitely creative! Plus, the view of the seaside makes the scene more photogenic!
What I didn’t like about the film:
An overshadowed mystery: At the beginning at the movie, Zee’s doctor friend, Eli, is murdered. However, this character is barely referenced throughout the film. Zee and Jeff don’t discover the murder until the last thirty minutes of the movie. This is because the majority of their time is spent solving the murder of an art gallery manager named Bernie. It is possible to make a good mystery movie featuring more than one mystery. But for Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, there either should have been an equal emphasis on both mysteries or have the main murder mystery be the only one in the story.
A glossed over event: Toward the start of the story, the characters are preparing for an upcoming regatta benefit gala. But similar to what I said about Eli, this event is barely referenced in the film. In fact, the event itself is not shown on screen. I found this disappointing because I like when events like this are featured in mystery stories, as it is interesting to see the ideas the movie’s creative team can come up with. Now that I think about it, I think this is one of the few times where an anticipated event in a mystery film doesn’t play a significant role in the overall story.
The mystery’s start time: Most mystery stories start their respective mysteries within a short amount of time. It is done to help the story move along at a steady pace. With Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, the main mystery didn’t officially begin until a little over twenty-five minutes into the film. This time was used to set up the mystery and re-establish the significance of the series’ main characters. But, personally, I don’t think that needed to be done in almost thirty minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes is, in my opinion, more than enough time to address those two aforementioned aspects of the story.
My overall impression:
At best, Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery is a fine movie. But, at worst, it is a step backward from the first two films. What I like about this series is how it has created an identity that sets itself apart from the other series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. One way it has accomplished this is by including an overarching story that can be found throughout each movie. I know every project isn’t created equally, as some stories are better than others. However, the third chapter made the overall quality of the series stumble a little bit. The first mystery movie of the year should put their best foot forward. For Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery, it could have been a stronger first impression. With a glossed over event and an overshadowed mystery, there are areas of the story that might have added more interest to the overall plot. Starting the main mystery almost thirty minutes into the movie also hurts its case. According to a production sheet I found on UBCP/ACTRA’s (Union of British Columbia Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) website, a fourth Martha’s Vineyard Mystery movie will go into production next month! Hopefully, that film will be better than this one was.
Overall score: 7 out of 10
Did you watch the films on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries? If so, which series is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
Here is the link to the production sheet I mentioned in this review:
https://www.ubcpactra.ca/whats-shooting/ (click on the words “Current Film and TV Production List”)