So, why am I watching a YouTube version of this movie instead of one of the 15 movies on my DVR? Because this one is the start of a trilogy and I’m in the mood for some continuity, so here we go! Finding Father Christmas debuted in 2016, but we won’t a little thing like 2 years stop us from delighting in it right now, will we? This one stars the girl from the Canadian Downton Abbey (When Calls the Heart) and the actor I’m not allowed to call handsome, which I don’t get, because he totally looks like my husband.
We start at a very weirdly narrated stage production of A Christmas Carol – is it a one-woman show? This is obviously in the past – there’s a girl backstage parroting back everything her mother is saying on the stage – great backstage speakers – which pick up the exact moment when her mother passes out and probably dies onstage.
Cut to 20 years later in Seattle – our heroine, name unknown, is a high powered home-stager with a Sassy Assistant. She walks through her heavily decorated office with a power cup of Starbucks and a nicely layered scarf, instructing all the homes to have Christmas trees in it, the better to entice potential buyers. Sure, whatever. It’s a week til Christmas, and she’s not about making Christmas plans. Oh, her name is Miranda. Or Amanda? She’s too busy to make Christmas plans, and she’s ditching everyone.
Dinner with a friend also hammers home the fact that Miranda/Amanda doesn’t want to have Christmas plans, because her mom died on Christmas, and we GET it. But we also discover that she doesn’t know who her father is, and hence the title of the movie. Oh, and yes, her name is Miranda Chester.
Man, her apartment is really nice, despite the green-screen view. You know she never cooks in that major kitchen. She’s ditching calls from a guy called Rick Torrance, who finally gets through to her via phone – he’s got something of her mother’s that he stumbled upon, and offers to give it to her. So back she goes to that theater where her mom died. Great. She is wearing major leather pants to go to this theater. Rick Torrance hands her her mom’s old suitcase, which now Miranda can’t bring herself to open – she stashes it in her overly large closet until curiosity gets the better and voila – we open it.
First thing – another scarf. Just what actresses need. And a box of probably fake jewelry, and ah-hah! hidden envelope in the lining of the suitcase! Mystery! A playbill from The Tempest, from a long time ago when mom played Miranda, and some kind of old boy and Santa photo which prompts Miranda to fire up the Googler and look up a town called Carlton Heath, VT. Methinks this is where Mom found love a long time ago! (And there’s something with an angel on a charm bracelet and this town). Off Miranda goes to Vermont!
Again – really they can’t plow roads in Vermont? Main Street Carlton Heath looks super fake. She checks in at the Inn – overly Christmas-decorated. So many poinsettias. And classic trope – her cell phone doesn’t work – and enter handsome actor carrying a lot of wood. Sparkage! His name is Ian and he adds all that surplus wood to an already overflowing pile. Set Designer, I’m looking at you for this problem.
In search of the place with the angel charm – she finds a building to let – whatever was there has closed up shop. Oh, bummer. Cut to pensive firelight gazing. Very nosy innkeeper lady keeps prying and won’t let up. Ian is Landlady’s son, and Landlady sends him off to bring Miranda to visit his father, who might be able to help Miranda find out information about that random Santa picture that has a little boy in it.
You always know it’s fake snow because there is not fog with the breath as both characters talk and talk and talk. I know these are filmed in the summer, but really, can’t they add that in post? And what are the odds that Ian’s dad is running A Christmas Carol at the local theater? They named the theater after a guy named James Whitcomb, who I think was also listed in that The Tempest program. But Miranda is having major flashbacks about A Christmas Carol and bails before she can talk to Ian’s dad, sending Ian to go find her in the snow. Oh, Drink! He just said “After all, it is Christmas!”
Next morning, she meets a Whitcomb at the B&B, so of course, we’re going to meet more Whitcombs.
WTF This Inn – her room has stairs to go up? What? Ian gave her a coat and she’s all cute and warm now, and he even invites her to use his office and the free WiFi, and the damn computer has holly decorations on it! We also find out that Ian is a lawyer, and does estate planning and facilitates adoptions, but not in a shady way, because this is Hallmark. More Googling for Miranda, until she gets interrupted by Ian’s mom and dad who are of no help whatsoever except to shame Miranda into taking a walk where she magically meets Ian again.
Drink! He said “Especially at Christmas!” And he’s invited her to deliver tea and cookies to every person in this simple town. And now some kind of conversations happen but the YouTube video audio has cut out – but we see Miranda being embraced by the locals, having a lovely time, and sharing a big cookie with Ian. And yay – sound back on! Miranda avoids Christmas and is embarrassed that she told Ian that and dang it, the sound back off so something happened and now sound back on, and Miranda heads out to the Tree Lighting/Caroling where Santa shows up in a horse and buggy.
Ian’s dad is playing Santa, and Miranda is now just in Love with Christmas. Soulful Gazing at the Tree – DRINK!
Miranda meets Peter Whitcomb, who apparently didn’t love that his father was an actor, and it’s weird. Then there’s village caroling, and I think we should bring that back – I remember doing that when I was little. Ian’s dad had some kind of dizzy spell, and now Ian’s worried about too much Christmas cheer, but a-caroling they must go! He even brings her gloves – he’s too good to be true, quite honestly. When oh When are the Sad Times?
They finish caroling at the Whitcomb family manse, and there, on the piano, we see another copy of the mysterious Santa and boy photo and Ian is So perceptive that he picks up on her distress even from across the room. Super Ian!
Meanwhile, back at the theater, Ian is now fixing sets and is super excited about it, but Miranda has come to say she has to go home, because she’s running away from her problems and her ghosts and the fact that it’s glaringly obvious that her dad is this James Whitcomb and her parents had an affair during a show. And she tells Ian all her sad story, and he tells her that the angel charm has nothing to do the photography studio, but it’s something about Christmas, and love, and the town. And she tries to run away, but Ian’s soulful “wait for me” means she’s not going to get very far. As she does try to get out of the theater, she meets up with Peter Whitcomb again, who’s again super creepy, but we do finally are treated to the knowledge that he’s the boy in the mystery Santa photo.
Ian shows up in Santa’s buggy with a blanket, and hot chocolate, and a flirtatious, winning manner. Jeez, this movie is really trying to hard – we get it – we love Ian already. He’s in love with his home town and his small town life and is beginning to be in love with Ian and I love the fact that this YouTube video doesn’t have commercials. Green screen is magic and we see a Currier & Ives print of a winter wonderland.
Miranda is a good person – she’s still intent on leaving so she doesn’t harm the Whitcomb family. That’s truly a nice motive, so good on you, Miranda. But Ian really, really, really wants her to stay, pretty, pretty, please and woah, mid-movie smooch!!! (It’s really loud). But his kissing must be sub-par because she’s still leaving on a jet plane tomorrow.
Uh-oh, Ian’s dad collapsed onstage, just like Miranda’s mom, so off they go to the hospital, but he’s not dead, he’s just had a mild heart attack. Why are Peter Whitcomb and his wife at the hospital and where are their kids? And Ian’s dad is taking “the show must go on” way too seriously – it just won’t seem like Christmas without a production of A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve.
Miranda says goodbye to Ian and it’s sad, but not Sad Times sad, despite the weepy violins. She packs up to go, but it looks like she won’t be able to get out of Vermont because of the magical snow that’s falling – she’s never seen snow before? It doesn’t snow in Seattle? Ian is back from the hospital and is doing the major hard sell about how Vermont is amazing and how he’s in love with he, and he’s super earnest – he’s just a boy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to love him, and yahoo! more smooches, guess that speech worked. She’s been alone for so long, guys, and she just wants a place to belong. She agrees to stay as long as Ian doesn’t say anything about why she’s there. And oh, Ian’s going to play Scrooge and needs Miranda to run lines. You cannot learn a whole play in one day, unless it’s the Magic of Christmas!
Enter James Whitcomb’s widow, played by Wendi Malick, and she’s always fabulous. She also is suspicious about Miranda, but she invites her to the cast party after the show at her house anyway. As a theater performer, I still think having a show on Christmas Eve is cuckoo bananapants.
Sound went off again, but at least we don’t have to hear Ian running lines from A Christmas Carol. Oh, it’s a montage. I’m even more grateful we can’t hear it.
Ta da! Night of the show. This theater has amazing old age makeup for Ian. But we are mercifully spared a full rendition of this play. Cast party at the Whitcombs! But as Miranda is helping out with the food, she espies Ian and Widow Whitcomb talking about that same Santa and boy picture and she freaks out that Ian told Widow Whitcomb about her backstory. It sends Miranda off to the study, where we find a framed poem by James Whitcomb with the name “Eve” in it – and that was Miranda’s mother’s name – and oh, it’s all falling into place.
Christmas Morning – she’s very pretty in a red dress, but she confronts Ian about the photo and he says he didn’t say anything, and apparently, they’ve all been invited for dinner at the Whitcomb house, because that’s not awkward at all. Ian gives her the same angel charm bracelet – cue more smooches – seriously Hallmark channel, this is a lot of smooches for one movie.
At the Whitcomb house, someone got Miranda a stocking, and that’s nice. But it’s also weird that Peter’s children are weirdly attached to her after, like, 3 meetings. At dinner Wendi Malick is also very astute about Miranda and her mom, Eve, and now the shoe drops and aww man, this is super awkward, and all the truth tumbles out, and Peter is super douchey and kicks her out of the house, but Wendi Malick to the rescue! Apparently, Miranda has James’ eyes.
Oh, and we find out that James and Wendi Malick were on a break! So it’s not like it’s really cheating, right? And the reason James left Eve pregnant and all alone is because Douche Peter was sick, and Saint Eve Miranda’s mom told him to go home. James told Wendi Malick all about his affair, but I don’t think he knew that Eve was pregnant at the time. Wow, Wendi Malick is killing this scene. Suck it, Douche Peter, now he has to apologize.
It’s a Christmas Miracle – there’s caroling – and Miranda has a family and everyone hugs, and then it’s back in the buggy with Miranda and Ian where they just say how much they love Christmas and have the traditional final frame kiss. And the end.
I think I saw half of this back in 2016, but I don’t think I saw the whole thing. I also didn’t know it was based on a book. I think I’m good without reading the book. But there is a Part 2 AND a Part 3, so of course, I’ll be doing that later this week. This one was pretty good. Now that Miranda’s found a new family, what more angst can happen? We’ll have to find out! Or, I’ll have to find out, you know, just so you don’t have to.