First impressions can be misleading, and the opening shot of Love, Once and Always had me hoping for a London romance. Alas, this Hallmark love story takes place in Rhode Island, a decidedly non-British locale. It has a few things going for it, however, like a Victorian estate that is at the center of the movie and a pair of handsome stars to match.
Amanda Schull and Peter Porte lead the film as two former lovers who discover they’ve inherited an equal share of the Wycliffe House in historic Newton. Lucy Windsor (Schull) flies home upon hearing the news, hoping to settle affairs before returning to London, where she is about to secure her dream job as a museum director. She’s surprised to see Duncan (Porte), now a Boston-based architect, in her home and even more shocked when he declares that she’s trespassing on his property, which he and his family have been caring for for years.
Putting their past aside proves difficult, in part because of nosy townspeople, and they continue to clash over the fate of the late 19th century mansion. Lucy dreams of turning her great-aunt’s home into a historic site with educational resources and space for local artisans. Duncan, ever the forward thinker, has the opposite idea and wants to remake the property into a golf course. He already has a pitch for a developer (Hiro Kanagawa) and can’t be bothered with Lucy’s restoration talk, especially when the place is a crumbling money pit.
We’ve seen this story before, and the couple predictably bicker about everything before they realize that working together may be in both their interests. In this case, their compromise leads to a fancy Gilded Age ball to show off the house. What makes this exercise a little more enjoyable though is the fresh pairing between Schull and Porte. The two balance their characters’ fiery sides with a healthy dose of humility, and the give and take between Lucy and Duncan makes you want to root for both. I get the revulsion of turning the solarium into a pro shop, but I see why consigning Wycliffe House to the past makes sense too.
Still, if we’re choosing sides, I’d probably sympathize with Duncan just because he’s consistent and sensible. Lucy’s passion comes across as naïve, and I find it hard to believe someone who works in the history business doesn’t grasp the challenge of historical preservation. Also her penchant of speaking in metaphors is silly. We get it; you majored in history, but not everything is the Great Fire of London or the Battle of Waterloo.
Dir: Allan Harmon
Writer: Susan Batten, Gregg Rossen, Brian Sawyer, Sydney Sidner
Cast: Amanda Schull, Peter Porte, Anna Van Hooft, Brittney Wilson, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Dolores Drake, Hiro Kanagawa
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel