Hearts of Winter (2020)

While the prize for the best Winterfest movie of 2020 easily goes to Winter in Vail, it’s a race to the bottom for dullest film, with Love in Winterland and this movie vying for last place. I’m inclined to put Love in Winterland on top, if only because I’m partial to anything featuring Jack Turner. Still, Hearts of Winter may have some appeal if you’re a Jill Wagner or Victor Webster fan, and since I’m neither, it took me three nights to trudge through this tired movie about a decorator and the widowed father she inspires.

Both actors play to their usual types, with Wagner as another snappy professional and Webster as her sleepy love interest. Interior designer Bethany hopes to boost her profile by sponsoring a home redo contest, one that catches the attention of teenager Zoe (Lauren McNamara). Her father, Grant, is still grieving the death of her mother, and she reasons that fresh décor will help Dad come out of the cloud he’s been under.

Never mind that they live in pretty posh digs already and need quality father-daughter time more than they need new throw pillows. Clear thinking isn’t the aim, neither for the set decorators nor for Bethany, who barges into Grant’s home uninvited. He’s not thrilled about the intrusion since he’s already occupied with work at a winter lodge and objects to strangers replacing and rearranging his stuff, which is totally reasonable if we’re being honest.

I can see how some may like Wagner’s eagerness. Bethany wants to please Grant and Zoe, not just for her own sake but so that the family can really find happiness in their home again. She also bonds with Zoe, who is in need of a mother figure. For me though, the movie lacks a beating heart. There’s not one character or relationship that draws me into the story and makes me feel the jumble of emotions that come with the best or even the really good Hallmark films. I felt a pang of sadness when Grant becomes protective of his late wife’s mixing bowl, but otherwise, everyone is too formal in their approach. The actors and the script all hit their marks, but the end product still falls short.

The movie’s failings are exemplified by Brendon Zub’s presence in the movie. An actor who deserves all the lead parts, or at least more than the handful he’s gotten, Zub fades into the background as Bethany’s sensible younger brother. He could have easily been a compelling supporting character or some needed comic relief, but like almost everything else in this movie, the encouragement he gives to his sister sounds meaningless and empty.

Released: 2020
Dir: Allan Harmon
Cast: Jill Wagner, Victor Webster, Lauren McNamara, Rukiya Bernard, Brendon Zub
Time: 83 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel
Reviewed: 2020