Hello, my friends! Well, I can truly say that this is a great honor, and I am SUPER excited to bring you this movie review today. I think I may have found my favorite 2020 movie, at least so far. This one was a gem! There were SO MANY things I loved about, and very few critiques I could think of. What a great kick off to the year! And it stars our very own Marshall Williams!

I know what some of you are thinking. “Who in the WORLD is that?!” Well, that’s because Marshall isn’t on When Calls the Heart. He has recently been introduced as Sam, a competition for one of our leading lady’s affections. And it all happens on…When Hope Calls. Yep, When Hope Calls. And since it is a spin-off of WCTH, I decided back in August that WHC should get a place on the Hooked Heartie blog as well. And this is especially a big deal because Marshall is the first male costar from the show to get a leading role in a Hallmark movie.

So…onward! The film is “Amazing Winter Romance”. I think what started it off on the right foot was the angle taken on the relationship between Nate and Julia (Jules). They were best friends all their lives! There’s even a framed photo of the two of them at around six years old. They’re not old flames, they don’t hate each other at first, and one wasn’t in love with the other doing a whole “pining for an unrequited love” thing their whole lives. They were truly just best friends who realized they couldn’t live without each other. This created an amazing and unique chemistry between them in the form of reliving memories, issuing and following dares, competing in friendly but high-staked races 😉 etc. And every time he asks her if she wants to do something, go somewhere, eat at his house, or just if she needs help, she always says yes. There’s no awkward, “No, I’m fine” excuse, which just makes things odd. But things do heat up past the friend zone, so the chemistry doesn’t burn out. One aspect is put into words by Julia’s mom when she comments how “one looks at the other when the other isn’t looking”; which is the cutest thing ever!

The second thing that makes this movie great is the casting itself. Jim Heber executed this part, and kudos to him! He knocked it out of the park! Marshall and Jessy are young enough that it’s easier to buy them being childhood friend. Not only that, they just look good together, and the way they literally and figuratively play off each other is unsurpassed! I really do wonder how much time they spent together preparing, or maybe how long they’ve known each other before filming started. They had one of the most natural, easy-going, and playful relationships I’ve seen on a Hallmark movie. Even as something as simple as her saying, “HA ha!” when she cuts him off in the plow, and him shaking his head and smiling at her very familiar antics illustrate how much history they have. Or Julia trying to step away from Nate’s moment in the spotlight for the TV interview, and him gently tugging her back? There are a million other examples, but we’ll stick with those for now.

Not only were THEY fantastic, but the rest of the cast around them completed a perfect ensemble. Julia’s boss/friend is a flawless combination of professional and “Get it together, girl!”, even if we don’t see her much. The parents were wise but fun, and very sneaky! (We definitely need more of them!) Brook’s sister role was a serendipitous blend of sympathy, helpfulness, and straight sibling talk to nudge them along, and yank Nate out of his clueless fog! That’s a whole different paragraph possibility entirely! And Skye was a great quirky fish out of water trying to swim upstream.

Number three in this recipe of success was the writing and directing: Barbara Kymlicka and Jason Bourque respectively. I’ve seen couples in TV shows and movies that have great chemistry, but their words and movements are so awful that it’s distracting! No such problem here! I don’t know where Barbara got the inspiration to write about a gigantic snow maze, but we’ve never had anything CLOSE to it in a Hallmark movie before! It was such a fresh and original idea! And it took Julia on a beautiful journey of self-discovery, which is vital in any good movie.

The other great thing she did was making sure the ending didn’t fall flat. That’s a problem I’ve witnessed in several projects as well. There’s an incredible film going along, then crash and BURN! It falls flat at the end. Not so! Nate stops Julia in a VERY different way than we’ve seen, (advantage to being involved in the road-clearing business,) and ties their history to their present situation with that adorable line: “I can’t remember a time when I ever wanted to be with anyone else, not even on a dare.” It could have stopped there, and it would have been beautiful. But it didn’t! They keep the playful element alive in their relationship, still being playful, still being competitive. And when they win the race to the middle of the maze, he kisses her, and DIPS her! But the final shot is an aerial shot of them throwing snow at each other, not losing the fun quality that made them friends in the first place. Between Barbara’s writing and Jason’s directing, it was, in a word: perfect.

I could go on and on, but I should probably stop now before I type all night. And with this movie, I could! Suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen it, watch it! I don’t see it in the schedule, but you know very well how many times Hallmark Channel repeats movies! I’m sure it will have an encore presentation in the near future. If you’ve seen it, watch it again! And if you kept it on your DVR like I did, watch it again, and again, and again!

Speaking of encore, if you haven’t already heard, we at the Hallmarkies Podcast have put together Hallmark’s very first exclusive awards ceremony. And there are SEVERAL nominations and wins for people involved in both these wonderful shows. The link is in the comments. And with that, I leave you. See you Friday with chapter 2 of #FaceOffFriday! Who will pull ahead this week? This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

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