A Godwink Christmas (2018)

A Godwink Christmas starts off above average in my book for two reasons. The first is that it sort of takes place in my hometown of St. Louis – and it’s about damn time, Hallmark. The second is that Kimberley Sustad, my favorite Hallmark supporting actor, has finally been upgraded to the lead role, and I am stoked. Both reasons earn this film more goodwill than it might otherwise get because take those away and it’s an average Christmas movie. That it’s based on a true story adds a little charm, but only during the end credits when we get to see the real Mr. and Mrs. Godwink.

That’s not the name of the couple, of course. “Godwink” refers to “an event or personal experience often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it is seen as a sign of divine intervention, especially when perceived as the answer to a prayer.” I just call it a coincidence or an answer to my prayer. Others call it dumb luck, but then again, A Dumb Luck Christmas doesn’t have the same ring. In any case, Paula (Sustad) and Gery (Paul Campbell) have a hell of a Godwink when she flies off to Nantucket to visit her Aunt Jane (Kathie Lee Gifford). She goes on another last-minute trip, alone, to Nantucket, where a busted taxi, a cancelled flight, and a Currier and Ives print are enough to bring her and Gery together.

Paula initially visits Aunt Jane to get some clarity about her boyfriend, Daniel’s, recent proposal. She’s not looking for a replacement, but the trip opens her heart to Gery and the type of life she wants for herself, and it’s not in St. Louis with a controlling lawyer. Since she works at an auction house and he owns a storied inn, she sees in Gery someone who shares her appreciation for history and for places and things that tell a story about the past.

The story could stand on its own without injecting holiday sentimentality. I don’t know whether the real Paula and Gery met during Christmas and whether they decorated ornaments together and attended the town’s Cherub Festival. They very well might have, but in emphasizing certain elements of their story and leaving out others, Hallmark strips it of its uniqueness. Paula and Gery don’t seem like real people rooted in a certain time and place. Instead, they’re reduced to generic characters in a generic romance of the kind that gets played on repeat this time of year.

Now I happen to like those characters and don’t mind the story, but that’s largely because Sustad makes Paula shine a little more brightly. Even in supporting roles, which she’s played far too often, I’ve always been drawn to her characters. She has a commanding presence, almost a seriousness, that demands attention. It’s not a seriousness that spoils the mood but the kind that makes you feel she’s not revealing everything, that she’s holding back because some things just don’t need to be or cannot be told. Paula has this magnetism and mysteriousness, but what she should also have is more control of her own story.

Released: 2018
Writer: David Golden, John Tinker
Cast: Kimberley Sustad, Paul Campbell, Kathie Lee Gifford, Jag Bal, Giles Panton, Natalie Sharp, Ryan Alexander McDonald
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2018