The Christmas Cottage (2017)

Alright, Christmas Cottage. I choose to get behind this movie because while it is void of all imagination, it is about the need achieving a healthy work-life balance, something that does not exist in Hong Kong, where I live and work. So here I am, embracing the preachiness of a sweet but generally dull movie about ex-lovers who reunite at a Christmas wedding.

The couple, Lacey and Ean, are played by Merritt Patterson and Steve Lund. Both are enjoyable to watch and give the movie more life and personality than it would have otherwise. There are interlopers, but these two do most of the heavy lifting in this story. They settle into their roles as childhood friends and former lovers who separated due to differences in priorities but who, older and wiser, find themselves suddenly in tune again. There’s a natural chemistry and some sparky banter in the early going, but that fades as the relationship between the characters deepens, taking away some of the excitement as well.

The occasion for the reunion is the wedding of Ava (Brittney Wilson), Lacey’s best friend and Ean’s sister. Tradition stipulates that the wedding take place at the family cottage during Christmas; tradition also has it that anyone who spends the holidays there will find true love. Lacey and Ean aren’t antagonistic, but they aren’t thrilled at the prospect of seeing each other again and they certainly don’t give any thought to the idea of rekindling their romance even when they get trapped in the cottage. Civility reigns, however, and they learn to work together, which in turn leads them to reconsider their feelings and life goals.

For Lacey, an interior designer based in San Francisco, that means having a life outside of work. It’s hard though when your boyfriend is your boss and a demanding workaholic. She and Roger (Victor Zinck Jr.) are days away from landing a lucrative contract, the kind she’s dreamed about for years, but man, what bad timing. Faced with the choice of enjoying her friend’s wedding and Christmas at home and some downtime with her easygoing ex-boyfriend or working, it kind of becomes clear what she really wants. Similarly, free-spirited chef Ean, whose personal style is backpack chic according to Lacey, considers putting the breaks on his exhausting travel schedule. His sense of adventure and interest in international cuisine takes him all around the world, but it doesn’t give him the stability and sense of belonging he needs.

At one point, their growing self-awareness had me recalling Pleasantville. Like the characters in that movie, Lacey operates in shades of gray, which to her is the height of modern design. Everyone else’s embrace of warmth and color, however, lead her to reconsider not just her design aesthetic but her attitude towards romance as well. As she shifts away from the practical and predictable, she starts to experiment with riskier elements, like real Christmas trees and fireplaces. Of course this movie has none of the symbolism of Pleasantville. It does have a woman coming into her own and standing up for what she wants though, so I guess that counts for something.

Released: 2017
Dir: Paul A. Kaufman
Writer: Claudia Grazioso
Cast: Merritt Patterson, Steve Lund, Brittney Wilson, Victor Zinck Jr., P. Lynn Johnson, Carey Feehan
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2017