Always and Forever Christmas (2019)

Always and Forever Christmas has me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, Lexi Lawson is a sweetheart, Mark Ghanimé is a babe, and I love me some Lifetime diversity. On the other hand, the script, to put it in technical terms, sucks. I tend to favor it because I like the actors enough to disregard the nonsensical writing, but this is a movie you might hate if you have standards.

The film depends on a combination of fanciful thinking and audience goodwill to keep things from falling apart despite its basic plot. Lawson plays Lucy, who returns to her childhood home in Vermont to finalize the sale of her grandfather’s Christmas store to an athleisure wear company. The townspeople are against the idea, but the practical-minded businesswoman will not budge. Funny things happen though when you’re stuck in a small town with not-so-great wifi connection. As she participates in the usual holiday activities, Lucy starts to realize how much the Christmas store means to the town and to herself.

It’s a simple premise but one the movie can’t manage without relying on literal Christmas magic. Carol (Beth Broderick), a low-key Mrs. Claus and the seasonal temp, prompts Lucy to have a change of heart with her constant cheeriness and a few mischievous tricks. I actually don’t mind this character. I’ll buy into spirits and Santas and such because that’s what we do this time of year, but things go sideways when Carol encourages Lucy to look to herself for that Christmas touch. Lucy starts to will perfect gifts into being, helping customers find long lost toys or that special keepsake. There’s no logic behind this; she taps into her magic intuition whenever it’s convenient without explanation as to where she gets this power, whether it’s from Carol or some feature of the store. I see it as a lazy narrative fix and one at odds with the movie’s more grounded message about the magic of simply being at home and in community.

The more jarring inconsistency though is Lucy’s character. She’s all over the place, and there’s a disconnect between how she’s written and how Lawson portrays her. The different parts of her personality just never come together. Lawson has this pure, almost ethereal presence, and she fills her character with a gentleness of spirit that makes her impossible to dislike. At the same, Lucy can be so obtuse and dismissive. She suggests meaningless gifts and brushes off the townspeople’s pleas to at least reconsider her decision. Insomuch as she’s able to finesse her relationships with others, it’s all down to Lawson’s magnetism and not Lucy’s ability to read a social situation. I’m not suggesting Lucy has to either be a hardened businesswoman or a flighty pushover, but let’s at least agree on some personality traits and not bend the character to whatever the scene demands. (Let’s also abandon that tacky red and green wardrobe.)

Scott (Ghanimé), the café owner across the street and Lucy’s romantic interest, fares much better in this story. Then again, he just needs to be the charming and supportive guy next door, which is exactly what Ghanimé delivers. The actor doesn’t have too much to work with since the dialogue is filled with clunky clichés, but you can imagine him taking up the lead again, hopefully soon. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing this whole cast take another shot at this Christmas thing. Lifetime is really out here giving us multiple POC leads, biracial couples, and Asian folks in a romantic subplot. This movie might be a bit of a mess, but I like what I like.

Alt Title: Forever Christmas
Released: 2019
Dir: Siobhan Devine
Writer: Blaine Chiappetta, Damon Tod Hill
Cast: Lexi Lawson, Mark Ghanimé, Beth Broderick, Cardi Wong, Adam Hurtig, Stephanie Sy
Time: 87 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Lifetime
Reviewed: 2019