Hearts of Christmas (2016)

For a movie about hearts, this one left me pretty cold. What starts off as a moving story about dedicated neonatal intensive care nurses devolves into a bland romance that neither feels true to life nor takes advantage of the many touching stories that come out of a real NICU. Instead, Hearts of Christmas is just another cookie cutter Christmas film coming off the Hallmark belt, which is a shame because this story has a lot of potential.

Emilie Ullerup plays Jenny, a nurse who’s in charge of this year’s staff Christmas party. When she seeks a routine budget approval for their shindig, however, the new CFO informs her that there’s no money for this or anything else that might go towards celebrating the nurses’ hard work for the year. In fact, he even has to lay off some people, and no, he will not wait until after the holidays. One of the first casualties of these new cost-cutting measures is Jenny’s mentor, Alice (Sharon Lawrence), who’s forced to take early retirement.

Things are looking somber until Jenny starts hanging out with CFO Matt (Kristoffer Polaha) and realizes he may not be the big bad budget slashing wolf after all. He helps his case by being handsome and charming and appearing out of nowhere whenever she needs a favor. His sister (Kimberley Sustad) is nice too, so surely he has some redeemable qualities. The other nurses aren’t so sure about this romance though, and with good reason because the guy said that he only cares about the raw numbers and data and a NICU nurse’s job is about a lot more than that.

I get that people expect certain things out of a Hallmark movie, but the feel-good channel does itself no favors when it doesn’t generate any feels. Hearts of Christmas had every opportunity to squeeze some drama out of its script. The hospital’s financial state, the administrative changes, and the fear of job cuts are concerns that viewers can easily relate to and sympathize with, and that’s without factoring in the emotions of working in a NICU or being the parent of a child there.

None of the characters makes any deep impression though. Jenny is all too happy to dismiss the upheaval at the hospital once she starts to develop feelings for Matt. That’s not to say she doesn’t care, but the fact that I feel more concerned about the emotional well-being of her colleagues makes me less inclined to see her through her storyline. I did like Lawrence’s performance and felt bad for Alice, who somehow kept it together despite being unceremoniously kicked out of a job that had become her vocation. She’s a steely character, someone who can take things as they are, who is as measured in her response to good news as she is to bad because she knows that life is full of both. If the movie had just focused on her, it would have been much more memorable.

Released: 2016
Dir: Monika Mitchell
Writer: J.B. White
Cast: Emilie Ullerup, Kristoffer Polaha, Sharon Lawrence, Crystal Lowe, Nicholas Carella, Rachel Hayward, Bruce Dawson, Kimberley Sustad
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2017