Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Love's Christmas Journey [2011]

Fr Dennis (3 3/4 Stars)

IMDb listing

As a result of my blogging here, I was asked to take a look at / review the Hallmark Channel's Love's Christmas Journey [2011], which is going to be released on DVD on October 30, 2012 along with the release of the Love Comes Softly Tenth Anniversary Collection on the same day.  Both Love's Christmas Journey [2011] and the entire Love Comes Softly series of films are based on the books of Evangelical Christian writer Janette Oke.  Since I've been a life long fan of gentle movies, perhaps because I grew-up on The Waltons (1971-1981) [IMDb] and especially The Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983) [IMDb] television series, fulfilling this request proved to be to be not only "not a problem" but indeed  joy.

Love's Christmas Journey [2011] is a very well done, gentle Christian period piece set in the American West in the late 1800s and made very much in the tradition of the Little House on the Prairie television series.  Viewers of my generation and above will also recognize obvious homages to both the made-for-tv movie The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1973) [IMDb] (which was actually the pilot later Waltons television series) and Frank Capra's classic It's a Wonderful Life (1946) [IMDb]

So what's the story here about?  Ellie Davis (played by Natalie Hall) who had recently lost both her husband and daughter to a tornado, packs up and goes for an extended visit to her bother Aaron (played by Greg Vaughan) who serves as a sheriff in a small Western town at the foot of the Rockies.  Aaron's also recently been widowed but has two young children Christopher (played by Ryan Wynott) and Annabelle (played by Jada Facer) who need someone to look after them.

When Ellie arrives, she finds a bustling town full of life and optimism.  Rumor has it that "the railroad" is going to extend its line to the town and everyone is gearing up to a big celebration of the announcement, which is to come a few days before Christmas.   Everybody is happy because they equate "the railroad" with "fortune."  But there are also problems.  Outside of town, land disputes are beginning to arise as everyone from bankers to small-time ranchers to tenants, arguably squatters are all positioning themselves to be able to sell their land, previously largely worthless grazing ground, to the railroad when it begins to build the line.

In the midst of this excitement beginning to build into violence, Aaron, sheriff after all, decides that he has to check on some land outside of town that has become a source of contention and ... is delayed in coming home.  What happened?  We, the viewers actually know quickly what happened to him but his family does not.  The rest of the story follows, and makes for a poignant and actually quite current parable about priorities.  What really ought to matter in our lives?  That "a train" (progress, potential prosperity) should perhaps one day "come to town" or that "dad" (family, someone we love) would be able to _make it back_ home/to town at all?   

Yes, it all ends well.  Yes, it's kinda a tearjerker at times and yes, it all moves at times kinda slow (It's actually a 2 part movie that goes for a total of 2 hours and 50 minutes).   Still I do think I understand the film's somewhat surprising length (and remember folks that this film was intended originally to play for the Hallmark channel): At a time when TV may be doing a fair amount of parenting in many homes, this is actually not a particularly bad movie to have playing for the kids while ma' is preparing dinner for the rest of the folks or otherwise busy with various other chores.  And also, since the story is such a lovely period piece, I don't think a lot of people would particularly mind if the story lingers at times because it allows viewers to stay a bit longer out there in the Old West with Ellie and her family.

So folks this is a very, very nice movie and certainly is safe for even the smallest of kids.  And it does teach good values and does so in a very nice, gentle sort of way.  Good job!

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