Christmas in Montana (2019)

The old save-the-family-business plot makes one final appearance before the close of the holiday season. While it’s not my favorite, it’s fine for a cold Monday night. Stars Kellie Martin and Colin Ferguson always turn in solid performances, and they deliver some heart to this otherwise mundane story about an L.A.-based financial advisor and her cattle rancher client in Montana.

Sara (Martin) finds herself in Bigfork to help Travis (Ferguson) streamline his business and secure a much needed loan during Christmas. She arrives ready to dig into ledgers and spreadsheets, but he works on Montana time. That means she’ll spend as much of her visit decorating a barn and riding horses as she does combing through the ranch’s books. While she pushes back, she can’t do much to slow the holiday preparations swirling around her.

It’s nice to see a pair who aren’t antagonistic from the start. Sara and Travis ultimately have the same goal, and so no one’s trying to undercut the other. Even when she defaults to some drastic cost-cutting measures that he refuses to entertain, she keeps trying to find another workaround because she respects his commitment. That makes her amenable to his plans to involve her in all the ranch’s holiday activities, which is at the core of the movie.

Other Hallmark films this year, like Two Turtle Doves and Under the Christmas Stars, have done a better job wrestling with grief and loneliness, but this is still a fair effort. Sara and her teenage daughter, Chloe (Ava Preston), have kept things low key since her husband died four years ago. Diving into all of Travis’s Christmas traditions and spending time with his family and friends, however, causes her to reconsider her own approach to the holidays.

The key, I think, is the maturity that the two actors bring to their roles. Both have the look of real sadness etched on their faces. Martin has played the distraught widow or fiancée countless times, and though Ferguson usually gets the pluckier part and does so again here, he also shares an affecting backstory about Travis’s relationship with his parents, his regrets, and his time as a lawyer in New York. Their characters have a depth of experience and emotion that allows the movie’s message about family resonate. In the end, it’s not so much about Christmas in Montana but about surrounding yourself with people who care for you. That’s what makes this holiday so festive for Sara and Chloe and why this movie still gets a nod of approval from me.

Released: 2019
Dir: T.W. Peacocke
Writer: Julie Sherman Wolfe
Cast: Kellie Martin, Colin Ferguson, Ava Preston, Art Hindle, Victoria Snow, Kayla Hutton
Time: 82 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Movies and Mysteries
Reviewed: 2019