In a slight detour from the usual Hallmark formula, Dawn (Nikki DeLoach) and Gabe (Benjamin Ayres) are already married. In fact, they’re already separated. Well, they’re “taking some time apart” as Gabe stays on the cranberry farm , ensuring its proper management, and Dawn travels the world promoting their lifestyle brand and business, Cranberry Lane. Dawn returns home in time for the holidays to help out with the town’s annual Christmas festival, with a huge talk show host, Pamela (Marci T. House), in tow. She’s proposing to feature them on her show, a huge get for Cranberry Lane, obviously, but pretty awkward since the planned segments would focus on Dawn and Gabe as the perfect Christmas couple. They agree that for the business’ sake they will pose as a happy couple for as long as the TV show’s around, but nobody’s fooled into thinking it will be easy.
Honestly, it won’t be nearly as difficult as they think. There isn’t a lack of love between Dawn and Gabe, but their lives are taking them down different paths and they’ve been growing apart. Of course, acting like a cozy couple kind of gets their romantic juices flowing again. They’ve still got their issues but they seem willing to work on things – until Pamela throws a much bigger wrench into things. Their segments have gone so swimmingly (shall I say sleddingly since it’s Christmas?) that Pamela (think Oprah, she’s apparently that big) is offering them their own national TV show…which would require them to move to NYC, where it tapes. Gabe has recently poured more of himself into the farm, and bought more land, to expand. He’s committed at home, not interested in TV shows or moving. He’s actually ready to step away from Cranberry Lane altogether. Pamela is willing to take Dawn on her own, and it’s an amazing opportunity, and neither of them wants Gabe to stand in the way of her dreams.
Cranberry Christmas is refreshing for its variation on the Hallmark theme, and truly, the falling in love part is the easy part, isn’t it? It’s the staying in love that can be a challenge: growing together, sharing a life, making the compromises. Marriage is hard work, and this is a rare Hallmark romance that admits that love and commitment come with bumps in the road. Hallmark movies ask you to buy into a certain romantic fantasy, but a movie like this helps normalize the truth of real relationships. The beginning of a relationship is easy to get right; it’s the considerable territory between ‘I do’ and death parting you that really matters, and while it may not be the passionate, feet-sweeping good times of the falling in love part, the heart-warming, soul-expanding, truly knowing another person and relying on their steadfastness middle that makes love the most sought-after of things.