Movie Review: 'Tis the Season for Love' (2015)

Sarah Lancaster stars as a struggling actress hoping for her big break on Broadway when a trip to her hometown for Christmas opens the door to an alternative path in life. For Beth (Lancaster), returning home does not mean she immediately falls back into the arms of the one who got away (he’s already married and has a kid).

Refreshingly deviating from the standard Hallmark Movie formula, she instead finds romance in the form of her high school sweetheart’s best friend, who harbored a secret crush on her back in the day. Faced with the unforeseen opportunity to return home, begin a teaching career and eventually start a family, she must reconsider her life in New York and whether she should continue pursuing her acting aspirations.

Many of the hallmark (pun fully intended) themes of “Countdown to Christmas” are in full force in “’Tis the Season for Love”. From a character weighing the priorities of having a career versus a family to the lead experiencing glimpses into alternate futures and coming to grips with what they want their life to be versus where it really stands. It is all here.

For this viewer, feeling as conflicted as Beth does over her dueling prospects is difficult because neither of her options are all that appealing. Her life and career in New York are lonely and rather empty, despite having a kind-hearted actress friend.

While a life in the picturesque small town that Beth calls home beckons with its charms, the townsfolk are not all that endearing. Not even Beth’s mother is all that likable. In fact, she borders on absolutely grating. Upon returning home, her mother reveals that she’s added her own personal trophies to the case in Beth’s room.

If the mom wanted to showcase her accomplishments, she could have done so in the living room. Why take over her daughter’s trophy case? Making matters worse, she then throws in Beth’s face that she placed higher than her on the pageant circuit. Who does that?

If it is supposed to be a funny satire on competitive parents, it does not work because the movie treats the mom as a positive figure, which is hard to reconcile given her behavior. As it currently stands she is the worst of the "Hallmark movie moms."

Beth’s love interest, Dean (Brendan Penny), is pleasant, though he seems ill-suited to her. He is sort of a cutout of everything Beth is supposed to want, without having a distinctive personality that warrants her attraction. It also feels a little too convenient that the first single guy she meets in town is “the one.”

Their relationship develops in odd ways and most of their interactions center around whether she is actually staying in town or not. With that conflict constantly looming, the ability to see them connect as a couple is undermined.

Given she has one foot in and out of town, there is never a sense they are actually growing as a couple because it is frozen by her indecisiveness. Not to mention there is a lingering sensation that Dean is having a difficult time launching himself out of the friend zone.

The movie’s message is commendable. Sometimes everything you have ever wanted has been under your nose the whole time. “Tis the Season for Love” does not go full tilt on ‘what if’ reveries, relying on brief glimpses to drive its protagonist to wonder about her future and inspiring her to reassess the present.

The movie also offers a refreshingly realistic approach to its majestic foretastes, making it clear that Beth’s subconscious is behind them and not Santa. Another shining aspect of the movie is Sarah Lancaster’s performance, which thrives on her innate relatability. Even when Beth’s wish-washy antics annoy, Lancaster somehow sustains her likability.

“Tis the Season for Love” is a sturdy installment for the “Countdown to Christmas” franchise. It plays with a higher uncertainty pertaining to its outcome and provides an engaging scenario on which to ponder. To sum it all up: 'tis definitely worth watching. Rating: 7/10

[Featured Image by Hallmark Crown Media]