I was too busy complaining about Amazing Winter Romance, a decidedly un-amazing film about a snow maze and winter romance, to notice the pun. Here I was thinking Hallmark was just being lazy with their titles again (e.g. Best Christmas Party Ever, The Perfect Christmas Present), but no, they were really trying to be clever. Too bad they didn’t put more work into the actual movie, an underwhelming excuse to film at the world’s best, most perfect snow maze ever.
The actual tourist attraction in St. Adolphe, Manitoba doubles as little backyard project for Nate (Marshall Williams), who doesn’t seem to have much of a day job. He helps out with the town’s snow removal crew as needed and that gives him a mountain of white stuff with which to create a sprawling, larger-than-life maze. It’s impressive work, and he’s gone so far as to integrate an ice cream bar and a mini bonfire into his masterpiece. Nate doesn’t have an agenda with this thing though; he’s mostly built it as a fun diversion for bored townsfolk and a go-to spot for school field trips.
It’s the kind of oddity that makes for an interesting magazine article, and writer Julia (Jessy Schram), goes back to her hometown to see what kind of story she can spin out of this. Her boss, seeing that she’s a bit fried as well, hopes she’ll also find some inspiration and assigns her a piece on what makes small towns so special. The answer, going by my experience, is not much, but a job’s a job, and Julia has to figure out what makes people want to visit and maybe even stay in Podunkville.
The banality of small town life happens to be the best thing about this movie. Julia mucks about doing ordinary stuff, like goofing around on the school swing set and plunging down a mound of snow with friend Nate. I saw my own bored but happy childhood reflected in such scenes, and those with a similar experience may appreciate the film’s quotidian nature. The actors downplay their parts, opting for a casual vibe. Schram and Marshall, reminding me of a very young, very blond Mark Ruffalo, have an easy chemistry, helped by the fact that their characters don’t have to deal with the messiness of a past relationship.
Julia and Nate’s solid friendship – they come off as really good friends more than would-be lovers – points to a different issue with the movie though. Just as there isn’t enough fire between the pair, there also isn’t much to keep the story aglow. It’s not a stretch to say that nothing happens; the story lacks a pressing conflict, and even when Julia encounters minor problems, like losing a dog in the maze, the consequences are brushed aside. An attempt at a love triangle also turns out to be as awkward as the interloper, a perky city girl named Skye (Melissa Marie Elias). She’s as enamored with small town life as she is with Nate, but sometimes giant paper mâché croissants just aren’t enough to win people over.
Dir: Jason Bourque
Writer: Barbara Kymlicka
Cast: Jessy Schram, Marshall Williams, Zoe Fish, Melissa Marie Elias, Paul Magel, Nancy Sorel, Kate Yacula, Daina Leitold, Stephanie Sy
Time: 84 min
Country: United States
Network: Hallmark Channel