Northern Lights of Christmas (2018)

Movies with canned plots can work well with interesting characters and actors who inhabit them, but Northern Lights of Christmas is not one of those movies. Zoey (Ashley Williams) and Alec (Corey Sevier) manage to be irritating in their own way and lack chemistry when they are together. The two actors come at their characters from opposite ends of the spectrum without ever meeting in the middle. Williams is relentlessly chipper, making Zoey’s more sober moments appear trite, while Sevier looks like he’s still transitioning from a role in a moody production of Grease. I might have liked this movie just a little if the two found some common ground, but they seem to be stuck in an awkward strangers phase.

Zoey, a Seattle-based commercial pilot, is going home to Alaska for a few days to settle the ownership of a ranch left to her by Gus, her former flight instructor and father figure. She arrives to find Alec, the property’s appointed caretaker and a man of few words. He nevertheless lets her know that he disapproves of her decision to sell the ranch. Zoey feels that she has no choice though; there’s her job for one, and she is counting on the sale to finally be able to purchase her own plane. But she agrees with Alec that Gus’s ranch shouldn’t just go to any buyer, and they strike a deal to freshen up the house and wait for someone who will truly appreciate the home.

What starts out as a little holiday decoration morphs into something grander. A bit of garland isn’t enough, and before long, Zoey and Alec are refurbishing the barn for a town Christmas festival, a tradition that died with Gus. The two also find themselves bonding over their love for the ranch and the way it brings people together. Zoey, however, doesn’t love what it’s doing to her bank account, and with no buyer in sight, her dream of owning a plane is becoming fainter.

I think the movie may have worked better with different actors, preferably ones who don’t act like they’re acting like they’re in love. Williams and Sevier can manage romantic roles but this particular combination of characters doesn’t serve either well. Waiting for Williams and Sevier to warm up to one another is like waiting for my house to heat up in the winter – it never happens – and that’s a problem when you’re trying to sell a romance. Sevier especially seems to have taken his character notes to heart. Alec, a wandering loner, is so stoic and standoffish that even the audience might want to keep its distance.

Released: 2018
Dir: Jonathan Wright
Writer: James Iver Mattson, B. E. Brauner
Cast: Ashley Williams, Corey Sevier, Genelle Williams, Laura Miyata, Jefferson Brown Art Hindle, Bill Lake
Time: 84 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019