Love on Ice (2017)

Love on Ice stars two things I love – figure skating and Andrew Walker – so I’m more fond of this film than I would otherwise be. The story’s not thrilling, but the sight of an empty rink, clean ice, and Walker on a pair of blades is, to me anyway. The actor plays Spencer, a young coach who arrives in Michigan to train Nikki (Ana Golja), skating’s Next Big Thing. There, he discovers Emily (Julie Berman), skating’s Next Big Thing from eight years ago who now teaches at the local rink and moonlights as a waitress. After seeing her land a couple axels and cut a mean spiral, he proposes coaching her as well.

Emily is reluctant. As Nikki’s friend and mentor, she doesn’t want to do anything that would interfere with Nikki’s training and chances at the upcoming regional championship. More importantly, she’s not sure if she has the heart or the money for this level of competition anymore. After stepping away from the sport when her mom died, she has since settled back at home, happily channeling her talents as an instructor.

It’s a lot of story to work with, but the movie doesn’t pick up on any one strand. Besides Emily’s “why the hell not” brand of decision-making, there’s also Nikki’s tug-of-war relationship with her pushy skating mom (Gail O’Grady). The late appearance of a second coach adds more selfish, duplicitous behavior into the mix, and then there is the question of Spencer’s own ambitions, which may be prompting him to act in his best interests and not those of Emily or Nikki. Since the film lacks a driving narrative, it’s hard to figure out which story or stories it really wants to tell, and each subplot, character, and relationship feels half-finished. The one I thought deserved the most attention was the friendship between the two skaters, one that could have easily soured but that is instead very supportive.

The film makes up for this with actual skating. It sometimes gets lazy with the technicalities. Spencer’s coaching consists of yelling “get up” a lot or, to mix things up, “center” when someone needs to tighten her spin. I’m not sure he has what it takes to make it to the elite ranks, but at least he’ll look good trying. Anyway, it’s a lot of ice time for a TV movie, and Hallmark’s got stunt doubles launching salchows and axels like nobody’s business. The final competition is choppy highlight reel of spins and jumps, and I wish they would have slowed things down with at least a good minute of Emily or Nikki’s program. All is forgiven in the final shot when Emily whips into an effortless layback.

Released: 2017
Dir: Bradley Walsh
Writer: Matthew Coppola
Cast: Julie Berman, Andrew Walker, Linda Kash, Ana Golja, Gail O’Grady, Kate Drummond, Ipsita Paul
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2019