Samantha’s grandmother was the keeper and maker of family traditions. This year will be Samantha’s first without her Nana, and it feels like it’s going to be a sad one, especially since she’s fighting writer’s block. But looks like Nana left one last surprise: an invitation arrives to spend one last Christmas at her house, with the whole family gathered near (including Sam’s mother, though her parents are divorced). So Sam and boyfriend Simon nix their Aspen plans for their first Christmas together and set out instead for her hometown.
Turns out, Nana’s about as demanding as Gerard Butler was in P.S. I Love You. In fact, a whole list of traditions to be fulfilled arrives, and the family has to really come together to make gingerbread cookies, ice skate, trim the tree, all those good things, many of which you probably do yourself. “Traditions are the stories that families write together,” Nana always said.
If you know the Hallmark formula, then you know that the protagonist always has a reason to hate Christmas, and on the journey to embracing the holiday season, they also fall in love. Reunited For Christmas falls a teeny tiny bit outside that comfortable, homogeneous Hallmark box in that Samantha starts out with a boyfriend, and he’s not horrible, or a workaholic, or a secret misogynist. And Samantha doesn’t hate Christmas, she’s just finding the holidays hard as she struggles with grief and loss. I think a lot of us can relate. That first holiday without a loved one feels marked by their absence, and it’s hard to really get in the holiday spirit. At any rate, Samantha is less in the way of her own self than almost any Hallmark heroine before her, and for that, I salute her. I still didn’t love the movie, but feel strongly the need to applaud any of Hallmark’s lineup that dares to stray even the teensiest bit from their very well-beaten path. I mean, what have we come to societally that what we need from Christmas is a bunch of carbon-copied, low on production value movies that are as predictable as they are overflowing with schmaltz? This year a deviation from formula, next year people of colour! LGBTQ+ story lines! A Jewish holiday special! Who knows?