I’m not saying good music correlates to good movies, but it can’t hurt, and in the case of A Valentine’s Match, a couple great bops – It was Over Before It Even Began by Stephane Huguenin and We Belong by Pat Benatar – are just icing on the cake. Then again, I knew we were getting something solid with stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Luke Macfarlane, who don’t often lead us astray. The two come together as ex-lovers meeting again after years apart. Natalie, recently fired from her TV hosting gig, returns to her Portland-area hometown to figure out her next few steps. She can’t make it past the first day though without running into her former fiancé, Zach, and the news that he now owns a hardware store surprises her. It was his decision to go to Europe to become an artist that led to their breakup in the first place.
Lenz and Macfarlane carry off their parts effortlessly. I have yet to be disappointed by their individual performances even if some of their movies turn out to be less than stellar. Both have an expressiveness that is put to good use here. They give their bickering characters plenty of quirks that convince me that Natalie and Zach, who love and know each other so well, nevertheless are due for a serious talk. They have a decade of unresolved issues to work through in addition to their current professional crises. Lenz and Macfarlane certainly don’t need a silly plot device like a Valentine’s Day Festival to bring their characters together; I could just as well watch them trade barbs over drain snakes or reminisce about old times in barn, which they also do.
But what’s a Hallmark movie without some dopey festival, and Natalie and Zack find themselves heading up the fair’s fundraising auction, thanks to their conspiring mothers (Mary-Margaret Humes and Karen Kruper). That means they spend a lot of time together brainstorming at the diner and gathering quilts and such. It’s fine because not only does all their work culminate with a puppy kissing booth (live puppies included), it’s also a chance to see the many ways in which they continue to challenge each other. The frustration on both their faces when Natalie suggests hot yoga or truffle hunting as prizes is simply delightful, as is the playfulness they share while combing through a trove of donated antiques. Their relationship feels grounded in a way that isn’t often the case in these films. Credit again to Lenz and Macfarlane for capturing emotions big and small, but the supporting cast also gets a nod. Besides Humes and Kruper, Caitlin Stryker and Devon Alexander add dimension to the story as Natalie and Zach’s best friends.
“It Was Over Before It Even Began” by Stephane Huguenin:
“We Belong” by Pat Benatar:
Dir: Christie Will Wolf
Writer: Cara J. Russell
Cast: Bethany Joy Lenz, Luke Macfarlane, Mary-Margaret Humes, Caitlin Stryker, Devon Alexander, Karen Kruper, Marco Grazzini
Time: 83 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel