There are far more Christmas movies about family lodges and party planners than there are about doctors according to my not-so-thorough count, but if it’s familiarity you want, fear not; The Christmas Cure has you covered. It’s about a doctor who returns home, reconnects with her ex, and abandons her job in the city in order to take over her dad’s practice. Basically, it’s like every other Christmas movie, with the one highlight being star Brooke Nevin, whose performance seems confined by her cookie cutter role.
She plays Vanessa, a doctor taking her first Christmas break in years. She’s looking forward to time with her family so is surprised when ex-boyfriend Mitch (Steve Byers) picks her up from the airport. He proceeds to hang out with them throughout her entire stay, popping in late at night to decorate their tree and generally appearing whenever and wherever he’s needed. One reason is that he’s remodeling the clinic run by Vanessa’s dad, Bruce (Patrick Duffy), and another is that, well, he likes his ex-girlfriend. The two, who also grew up together, find themselves renewing their friendship as he helps her see her hometown and her father’s small practice in a new light.
This paint-by-numbers story offers nothing extraordinary in terms of narrative, character, or acting. This is the first time I’ve seen Nevin in a lead role, and she’s certainly appealing as Vanessa, someone who wrestles with wanting to be close to her family but not wanting to live in the shadow of her father. The actor makes the most of her character’s struggle and conveys a woman adept at hiding complex feelings from her family. It’s harder for me to comment on Byers’s performance because, and eternal apologies to him, I simply can’t get over how much he looks like Mark-Paul Gosselar’s blond brother, or how much I’d rather see Mark-Paul Gosselar in this or any role. I feel more comfortable saying that Duffy needs a hair dryer and maybe a shave if I’m going to believe he’s the town doctor and not the owner of a Christmas tree farm.
There are a few moments that suggest a better story than the one we get. In one subplot, Vanessa’s dad makes weekly house calls to an elderly patient, a woman who depends on the good doctor for more than her physical well-being. Mitch also recounts his bittersweet upbringing with his single mother, who worked alongside Vanessa’s family in the clinic. These scenes fail to pack a real emotional punch though, and a little more showing and not telling might have helped.
One thought I kept revisiting is how much better this and all Hallmark movies would be if things didn’t resolve themselves so cleanly. It’s always a matter of choosing between the good option or the better one. Vanessa, who looks like she’s barely pushing thirty, can either return to California as the head of trauma or she could have her own practice just as her dad is retiring. With stakes this low, the movie just doesn’t require that much emotional investment. The one real moment of tension for me came when a mother who’s just finished a check-up with her newborn carries her baby down some very steep steps. If she’d taken a tumble, we’d be watching a very different movie.
Dir: John Bradshaw
Writer: Marcy Holland
Cast: Brooke Nevin, Steve Byers, Patrick Duffy, Kathleen Laskey, Dale Whibley, Jocelyn Hudon
Time: 87 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel