What is happening?! Why is water coming out of my eye? What is this weird feeling in my heart? Can it be…is it true? Do I like a Hallmark movie?! Curse you, shitty-movie gods, for making this sappy holiday story about a single mother and her son and a jerk of a guy who thinks she’s conned his late father into willing her a hundred grand. Off I go now to have Thanksgiving dinner with a silly grin on my face. I trust this won’t happen again.
On a network filled with movies about Christmas princes and princesses, about making eyes with the workplace Santa, and about getting stranded in a small town en route to an unfit fiancé (so many of those – ladies, stay home if you want to remain engaged after the holidays), A Bramble House Christmas stands out from the pack. Granted, our main character, Willa (Autumn Reeser), is a single mom struggling with bills and heading into the holiday season without a job. But she has also been working as a caregiver to one elderly Mr. Conrad, who dies and leaves her and her son $100,000 and a Christmas getaway to a B&B in Oregon.
His two estranged children, Finn and Molly, are not pleased; all they got was a card and some belated words of wisdom. They’re convinced that the young nurse exploited her relationship with dying dad and is now living it up on his account. When they find out she’s scored an all expenses paid vacation to Bramble House, Finn (David Haydn-Jones, or mini-John Heard) heads there to confront her and, if things go as planned, prevent her from collecting a dime.
But wait a motherloving minute because Willa is the best ever. There’s no way Finn can follow through once he meets her and sees that she’s open, honest, kind – everything he’s not – when he first storms into Bramble House all but ready to verbally assault her. He has a moment of confusion when she fumbles her way through the front desk to check him in and then cradles her son, Scout, when he comes plodding down the stairs. This can’t be the same person who willfully deceived Dad, can it?
I love Reeser’s portrayal here, maybe because she’s a good actress and maybe because 2017 is a flaming garbage heap and I just really need someone good and pure to fill the void. Willa is a fundamentally decent human, and Reeser gives her no airs. It’s been a rough few years for Willa, the reasons for which come out slowly. She tries to keep a sunny demeanor but nosy Finn is always there to intrude on her personal life. But bless this woman for trying to keep her shit together, and for the moments when she can’t. We’ve all been there and I for one have handled life with far less grace.
The story works its way towards an inevitable car crash. Finn fails on multiple occasions to tell Willa his true identity but then proceeds to earn her trust and affection and that of her son. Let’s establish that secrets and lies are never, ever a good idea. But I guess he thinks maybe he can pull it off because he’s the illustrator of Scout’s favorite book series and because he’s just a confident white dude. No matter though. Tis the season for redemption, and I want the couple to make up after they break up. Willa deserves to be happy. Plus, her little man totally wants to stay at Bramble House instead of going back to Minnesota, a plot point that draws in some supporting characters, like the control freak B&B owner and the town’s slim, youngish Santa. So there you have the people you need to make a satisfying diversion of a television Christmas movie.
Dir: Steven R. Monroe
Writer: Jamie Pachino
Cast: Autumn Reeser, David Haydn-Jones, Liam Hughes, Teryl Rothery, Andrew Airlie, Bruce Dawson, Hilary Jardine, Julia Benson
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel