A Veteran’s Christmas (2018)

Not a lot happens in A Veteran’s Christmas, but not a lot has to happen because the main characters, Grace (Eloise Mumford) and Joe (Sean Faris, or Hallmark’s Ronaldo), are intriguing enough on their own. The two strangers spend most of their time getting to know one another, which ordinarily would make for a dull film, but here, their conversation comes across so naturally that it’s like meeting new friends of your own. Mumford and Faris are fantastic together. They give off a vibe that’s different from most Hallmark couples, one that’s neither an opposites attract pairing or a “we already know we’re a match” dynamic. Instead, their relationship is something more akin to real life – tentative and full of polite small talk.

Mumford plays a newly discharged Marine captain, who crashes her car on her way home and ends up getting help from the local judge, with an extra assist from his dog. Grace is stuck in the small town of Rivers Crossing for the next three weeks while awaiting repairs and takes up Joe’s offer to stay at his guest house. There’s really nothing more to the story, except for a few holiday preparations and the obligatory town Christmas fair. There’s an ex-fiancée thrown in, but the writers don’t make too much out of the love triangle

Instead, I found the conversation between Grace and Joe captivating and was drawn in like a busybody neighbor. She tells him about her time in Afghanistan, where she was part of the search and rescue squad and paired with her canine partner, Christmas. He explains how he fell into his position of town judge by accident, taking up the job after returning home when his father died. His real dream is to sit on a higher court, possibly one in Chicago. I have my usual gripe about how big cities and those who live or want to live there are portrayed in these movies. Wanting access to good sushi and world class opera is not a character flaw, and how about everyone support Joe for trying to find a job that he thinks is fulfilling, wherever that may be.

Thankfully, Joe’s potential move is not a major plot point; Grace has a job waiting for her in Cincinnati, so she won’t be around anyway. That leaves space to explore something far more interesting, and that is Grace’s readjustment to civilian life. There’s no one major episode that seizes on this, but it comes across in the way she talks and moves and how she interacts with people. Mumford takes such care with her character and really captures her disorientation but also contentment with being back home. Grace knows she’s made the right decision but still feels adrift and apart. It falls on Faris to be a calming, reassuring presence, which he does with ease.

Released: 2018
Dir: Mark Jean
Writer: Mark Jean
Cast: Eloise Mumford, Sean Faris, Mary Long, Amanda Lisman, Jacob Blair, Paula Barrett, Richard Waugh, Jenna Weir, Miriam McDonald
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019