Take 3: A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love Review

As I stated in my USS Christmas review, I will be making a greater effort this year to review more Christmas movies. For my second Christmas film of 2022, I will be writing about the 2021 title, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! In my list of the top five Hallmark films based on a true story, I mentioned the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. While talking about that film, I said the sequel was stronger than the first movie. This is because the 2019 title did a better job at explaining and showcasing what a “Godwink” is. Since publishing that list, I have seen the third and fourth films in the Godwink series. The 2020 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Second Chance, First Love, was, in my opinion, fine. However, it was reminiscent of the first movie, where the “Godwinks” feel more like plot conveniences. What are my thoughts on the fourth film? Keep reading to find out!

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love poster created by Crown Media Productions and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Things I liked about the film:

Character interactions: Like I said in my Words on Bathroom Walls review, interactions between characters are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, I enjoyed watching these character interactions, as they were pleasant! One reason why was how believable the camaraderie felt! A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love revolves around Joy and Eric’s experiences volunteering during the Christmas season. During their time together, they work alongside two other volunteers, Adam and Sadie. Anytime these four actors (Katherine Barrell, Alberto Frezza, Josh Ssettuba, and Faith Wright) interacted with each other on-screen, I always got the impression their characters truly got along with one another and enjoyed each other’s company. This was accomplished partly with the help of the actors’ and actresses’ acting talents!

The inclusion of Advent: Advent is an important part of the Christmas season that, almost always, gets overlooked in Christmas cinema. So, imagine my shock when I see Advent included in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love! Advent was the name of the non-profit Eric and Joy volunteered for. However, the candle lighting and messages associated with Advent were incorporated into the script, correlating with what is happening in the story. The non-profit’s volunteer leader, Angelo, lights each candle at select moments in the film, explaining the significance of every one. Honesty is a message associated with the Advent candles, which connects to a dilemma Joy is facing in her personal life.

The incorporation of a conflict: It’s been several years since I’ve seen A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. From what I remember, the story contained a conflict the characters were working to resolve. As I said earlier in this review, Joy and Eric volunteer during the Christmas season in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love. The volunteers’ goal is to help a family who lost their house due to a fire. Because the characters work together to resolve this conflict, this part of the story gave the audience a reason to stay invested in the film. It also provided better explanations for what “Godwinks” are.

Showcasing each volunteer’s talent: As I said in my Top Gun: Maverick review, it can, sometimes, be difficult to evenly distribute character development to every character in a group. But in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love, the group of volunteers was smaller, which allowed the audience to get to know the characters. One way the movie’s characters received character development was having their talents showcased in the story! Sadie is one of the volunteers, like I mentioned earlier in my review. She is an expert when it comes to computers and technological equipment. When she discovers the Romero family’s computer hard-drive was destroyed in the house fire, Sadie finds a way to save at least some family photos. These photos were given to the Romeros as portraits for their new baby’s room.

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What I didn’t like about the film:

Joy’s relationship subplot: At the beginning of the movie, Joy is introduced as a woman in a serious romantic relationship. She has been dating her boyfriend, Danny, for five years. Throughout the film, Joy wonders if she should continue her relationship with Danny. I know A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I’m also aware Joy needed a personal conflict to work through. However, I, personally, didn’t think the relationship subplot was necessary. In fact, I found this subplot to be the weakest part of the overall story.

An unresolved story: In this review, I’ve been mentioning how the Romero family lost their house due to a fire. This is why the volunteers of the Advent non-profit are helping them. Because the Romero family play such a vital role in the film’s story and because A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story, I was hoping they would receive an update at the end of the movie. Unfortunately, the Romero family was never mentioned. This exclusion made their story seem unresolved.

A missed opportunity: When Joy and Eric first meet Katie Graber and her husband, Dr. Louis Graber, they learn about “Godwinks”. Louis claims that, because he’s a man of science, he thinks “Godwinks” are simply coincidences. Meanwhile, Katie is a firm believer “Godwinks” are God’s intervention. While Louis eventually changes his mind on “Godwinks”, I feel the movie’s creative team missed a good opportunity to explore how people can have differing opinions around a singular subject. As I’ve been saying in this review, A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is based on a true story. I also know there’s only so much story you can tell in two hours. However, I wish a little more time had been given to that aforementioned idea.

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My overall impression:

A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love is only the second Christmas movie I’ve reviewed this year, so far. But based on what I saw, I was impressed! The fourth chapter in the Godwink series was reminiscent of the 2019 movie, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. This is because both films a) do a better job showing and explaining what a “Godwink” is and b) featured a conflict the characters were trying to resolve. These types of Godwink stories are the ones I prefer. The movie’s creative team adopted interesting choices that made the story feel more unique. One example was how gift exchanging was incorporated into the script as a way for the Romeros to become acquainted with their new neighbors.  While gift exchanging has been featured in countless Hallmark productions, the way it was presented in A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love was creative. From what I’ve gathered, there were no Godwink films released or planned for release in 2022. Perhaps we’ll receive one in 2023, on either Hallmark Movies & Mysteries or maybe even Great American Family?

Overall score: 8.4 out of 10

Have you seen any of the Godwink films? Are there any “Godwink” stories you think should be adapted into a movie? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Holly and Ivy Review

For the third year in a row, I am participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon, hosted by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews! This time around, I went back to the Hallmark well. When I first joined the blogathon, I reviewed a Hallmark film titled Christmas Camp. If you read that article, you would know that I wasn’t a fan of it. Last year, I wrote about Little House: Bless All the Dear Children, a film that was a fine, family-friendly picture. Since I still had the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries movie, Holly and Ivy, on my DVR, I chose to review this title for the 2021 blogathon. In 2020, I didn’t see a lot of Christmas films from Hallmark. In fact, the only newer release I watched and/or wrote about was The Christmas Bow. Within a year, I have heard good things about Holly and Ivy, with my family sharing similar sentiments. Therefore, I figured it was time to finally check the movie out. How does it compare to The Christmas Bow? Like a child counting down to Christmas Day, you’re just going to have to wait to find out!

Holly and Ivy poster created by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Crown Media Family Networks

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: If the interactions between the characters feel like they are having real-life conversations with each other, that’s how you know the acting in a given film is good. That was certainly the case within Holly and Ivy! All of the characters got along well with one another, as they had good on-screen chemistry. It also helps that the cast as a whole was talented! I’ll be honest, I have never seen any of Janel Parrish’s projects from her filmography. However, I did see her on Dancing with the Stars. The way Janel’s character reacts to various situations came across very naturally. While Melody and her neighbor, Nina, are decorating Melody’s Christmas tree, she shares her reason for collecting elf ornaments. The tone of Melody’s voice and the look in her eyes highlights how reminiscent she is over something as small and simple as ornaments. These acting techniques helped make Janel’s performance feel believable. While we’re on the subject of Nina, let’s talk about Marisol Nichols’ performance. While portraying this character, Marisol embodied what a good mother should be. Despite dealing with her own medical issues, she always tries to take an active role in her daughters’ lives. While decorating her family’s Christmas tree, Nina reveals a special tradition that involves Nina performing a dance routine with Holly and Ivy. This scene shows how much she enjoys the life she has created for herself. While I like the performances of Sadie Coleman and Piper Rubio, the actresses who portrayed the titular characters, I want to talk about Jeremy Jordan’s performance. Similar to Janel Parrish, I am not familiar with Jeremy’s filmography. However, I still liked seeing his portrayal of Adam. His on-screen personality was easy-going and care-free. While he took his profession and hobby seriously, Adam just wanted to have a good time. When he interacted with Melody, you could tell just by watching them that these characters were made for each other. It helped that both Adam and Melody had similar personalities, but were traveling on similar paths in regards to their respective careers.

The presentation of Christmas tropes/activities: Hallmark is known for featuring a plethora of Christmas related tropes and activities within each story. But sometimes, these films are oversaturated with them, as if there is a checklist that needs to be completed. Holly and Ivy shows some Christmas related activities that have been featured in other Hallmark films. It’s the way they are included in the story that sets Holly and Ivy apart from the network’s other titles. In one scene, Melody is decorating homemade Christmas ornaments with Holly and Ivy. The purpose of showing these characters creating Christmas decorations is to give the audience some of Melody’s backstory. That small piece of information was emphasized more than the activity. This scene is an example of how there was enough presentation of Christmas tropes and activities for the viewer to get the intended point. At the same time, if you were to put this same story around any other holiday, it would still work.

An emotional balance: In films that revolve around a serious, real world topic, such as a potentially terminally ill relative, the overall tone tends to be heavy. There are times when viewers warn one another to “have a box of tissues at hand” or share that the film will “pull at your heartstrings”. While there are somber moments in Holly and Ivy, the movie itself never felt sad. In fact, feelings of sorrow and despair never crossed my mind. That’s because the script doesn’t rely too heavily on the sadder parts of the story. Instead, the creative team strives for a balance by also focusing of happier, more joyous moments. As I mentioned earlier in this review, Nina is dealing with medical issues. Even though these issues are discussed and an emergency plan is created if the worst-case scenario happens, Nina puts her energy toward helping Melody and being present in her daughters’ lives. In fact, I can think of more scenes where Nina is enjoying the company of her friends and family than worrying about her medical situation.

The 2021 Christmas in July Blogathon banner created by Drew from Drew’s Movie Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

Adam’s conflict: It’s typical for the male and female protagonist to have their own conflicts within a Hallmark picture. However, I didn’t like Adam’s conflict in Holly and Ivy. Throughout the film, Adam’s parents wanted him to come work at the family car dealership. But Adam would rather stay a contractor and focus on his woodworking hobby on the side. This conflict reminded me of a young, college-bound adult not seeing eye-to-eye with their parents on a potential degree. Because of this, it felt a bit immature for a character that appears to be in his early 30s. One of the film’s messages and Adam’s parents’ mantra is “help where help is needed’. By being a contractor and taking up woodworking, Adam is doing exactly what his parents wanted; helping where help is needed. It baffled me how his parents failed to realize this until the end of the film.

 Chippewa Falls Library being unbelievably ill-equipped: I understand that some libraries deal with more challenges than others. But based on what the movie presented, the town of Chippewa Falls appeared to be doing just fine. There’s no evidence of the town being a predominantly low-income community or having a high crime-rate. What the characters said about the library’s issues didn’t match up with the visuals. During her time volunteering at the library, Melody comes up with several ideas in order to solve some of the library’s problems. Two of these ideas are renting out meeting rooms for events and setting up a “Mitten Tree” to collect hats and scarves for citizens in need. I can only speak from my own experience, but my local library already does these things. With that said, I find it hard to believe that the Chippewa Falls Library wouldn’t utilize these resources already.

The inclusion of Betty the dog: Holly and Ivy have a dog named Betty, who periodically appears in the film. While I don’t have anything against the dog itself, I don’t think it was necessary to include a dog in this story. Having Betty in the movie felt like she was there just for the sake of being there. If you had written the dog out of the script, I don’t think it would make a difference.

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My overall impression:

Like I mentioned in the introduction, this is my third year participating in the Christmas in July Blogathon. Out of the three movies I’ve reviewed, Holly and Ivy is, by far, the best one! Within the past few years, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries has, in my opinion, made stronger films than their companion, Hallmark Channel. This is because Hallmark’s second network appears to try different things when it comes to storytelling. Holly and Ivy is a good example of this, as I highlighted in my review. There wasn’t a heavy emphasis on Christmas tropes/activities like in other Hallmark films. Creating a balance between the happier and sadder moments of the story also helps shape the film’s identity. I ended up liking this movie almost as much as I liked The Christmas Bow. Come to think of it, I wish Holly and Ivy was the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie for 2020. This story certainly has the ingredients for that to have been a reality. But I guess that wasn’t meant to be.

Since we’re still talking about Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, it’s time for me to share who I’d invite to Drew’s Christmas party! This year, I chose John Christian Plummer! For those who are not familiar with him, John is the father of Charlie Plummer and is one of the screen-writers of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Mystery 101 series. When I look back on the celebrities that have been “invited” to Drew’s Christmas party in the past, actors and actresses made up the majority of the guests. While choosing an actor or actress as a guest is totally fine, I wanted to change things up a bit. To an extent, screen-writers are underrated, especially from Hallmark. Therefore, my invitation will, hopefully, give recognition to at least one of them. Like in 2019 and 2020, my invites are about giving “standing ovations”.

Overall score: 7.7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on Holly and Ivy? Which Hallmark movies do you wish had become Hallmark Hall of Fame titles? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at Drew’s Christmas party!

Sally Silverscreen