It’s every woman’s online dating nightmare. You email an artist you like, he responds, you quietly determine he’s not a misogynistic creep. Then he takes the leap, invites you to visit, and you accept – only to discover that he has no idea who you are and you have actually been chatting up his twelve year old son. It happens to the best of us.
Sam (Erin Krakow) can’t run away from this nightmare. She’s stuck in some tiny town after a storm closes off all exits and has no choice but to stay with Heath (Ryan McPartlin) and his precocious kid, Donny (Ian Andrew). When the embarrassment wears off, she starts to connect with Donny, who concocted the harebrained scheme so that his widowed father would be less inclined to date his flirty manager, Celeste (Kaitlin Doubleday). Heath, for his part, also warms up to his unexpected houseguest. He’s impressed with her graciousness and is even more eager for her to stay when she helps him find inspiration for his photography again.
Sam starts off as a ridiculous character. She is one of those Hallmark types who loves being in love. She literally wants a guy to come in on a white horse and sweep her off her feet. Getting caught up in an online dating trap, albeit an innocent one, however, gives her better perspective on her love life. We see her grow comfortable with herself, boyfriend or no, and she eventually decides this is bullshit; she’ll just do what she wants to do. Sam could easily have turned cynical, but Krakow finds the lightness in her character.
Andrew is the film’s scene stealer though. The young actor really taps into Donny’s cheeky side. On the one hand, he looks like he spends the weekends playing video games with his friends, and on the other, he passes as the oddball genius who’s getting his MBA before can even get his driver’s license. That Andrew looks like Prince Harry’s squinty kid makes the casting of McPartlin as his dad a bit off, but it’s easily overlooked.
Not so forgivable is the selection of Heath’s supposedly award-winning photography. Folks, it’s not good. Despite being up for a solo show in London, Heath favors stuff you’d find in a Bible verses calendar. Think sunsets, barns, corn – all touched up with loads of photoshop. Sam and Heath connect over a piece called “Horse Meadow,” which I swear was sitting unloved at my local Goodwill last week. His Sam-inspired photos are of even more questionable artistic value. They’re like unwanted proofs from a 90s era Glamour Shots session. I guess no one’s here for the art though, and all that really matters is that Krakow, McPartlin, and Andrew tell a decent story.
Alt Title: Friend Request
Dir: Bradford May
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Erin Krakow, Ryan McPartlin, Ian Andrew, Patricia Richardson, Jean Louise Kelly, Kaitlin Doubleday
Time: 84 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel