Monday, April 10, 2017

Journey Back to Christmas (2016) [NR] ****

Since the loss of her husband in France during WWII, Hanna (Candace Cameron Bure), a nurse, has devoted herself to helping those at the small town hospital in Central Falls, Vermont. One evening, having spent time with Toby, a young orphan child, talking about the Christmas comet, Hanna leaves the hospital and returns to her empty home. Finding a stray dog on her doorstep, she sets out to return it to its owners only to end up driving her Hudson into a snowbank and spending the night in a small shed, sheltered from a major snowstorm. As the Christmas comet passes overhead, there’s a loud thunderclap and Hanna hits the wall of the shed, falling unconscious.

The following morning, Hanna awakens and manages to climb out of the window of the locked shed, leaving her purse behind in the process. She finds herself in Central Falls, but not the one she recognizes. It’s 2016, 71 years later, and Hanna is completely disoriented by the strangeness of her new world. Some townspeople think she has amnesia, while others suspect her of being a con artist, running a scam. Fortunately, a local police officer, Jake (Oliver Hudson) has an open mind and takes a personal interest in her, convincing the police chief to let him invite Hanna into his parents' family home for Christmas, while Jake’s partner Sarah (Brooke Nevin) is suspicious of Hanna’s motives and jealous of Jake’s interest in her. As Jake learns more about Hanna, he becomes convinced that she could, somehow, have actually traveled through time from 1945, but it’s only when Hanna meets Tobias (Toby) Cook (Tom Skerritt) a town elder in his 80s, who converted the 1940s hospital into a library, that the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.

Since this is a Hallmark film, 1940s period costumes and sets are beautiful, and while the acting performances are adequate, there isn’t the quality of character development, drama depth, dialogue or musical score that you’d expect to find in a time-travel romantic drama from a major studio, some examples being: Somewhere in Time (1980), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Forever Young (1992), Pleasantville (1998), Kate & Leopold (2001) and Midnight in Paris (2011).

Journey Back to Christmas does, of course, have lessons to teach about how times have changed, how people have changed with it, and how traditions such as Christmas caroling and lighting public buildings have been lost along with our sense of innocence and willingness to believe in the goodness of others.

As is typical of a Hallmark film, there isn’t really any evil, and the ending is positive and uplifting, with a strong feeling of completeness and satisfaction. While you may not experience the nail-biting tension of one of the major studio films noted above, if you are fascinated by the concept of time travel and you enjoy seeing how people respond when put in that situation, you’ll likely enjoy Journey Back to Christmas.

Labels: Christmas, drama, romance, space-time

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