Starring Rebecca Dalton and Jonathan Keltz
Charlotte (Dalton) is a New York City luxury clothing designer who’s struggling. A burst pipe that closes down her boutique temporarily sends her home to spend Christmas with her family, something she’s been avoiding. To make matters worse, Charlotte is participating in a department store’s Christmas design challenge and must create two outfits within a week, and she can’t find her creative spark. Driving into town, she rear-ends a truck driven by the local mechanic, Spencer (Keltz). As they grow close, Spencer inspires her creativity. But Charlotte sees no future with him, and her family thinks she doesn’t spend enough time with them and are hurt. Conflicts force her to re-evaluate her priorities.
A cute couple. Charlotte was all big-city ambitions and anxieties, while Spencer’s easygoing manner reflected his contentment with small-town life. They teased each other about their differences, including tastes in fashion. And they shared fun moments, including an enthusiastic kiss during a bingo game that enabled Charlotte to win a big stuffed bear, and games night with her family. But what I liked best about their relationship was how Spencer supported Charlotte’s creativity in imaginative ways. He showed her his vintage car, saying it was comfortable, affordable, and nostalgic yet contemporary, and encouraged her to reflect those qualities in her designs, and also to tap into Christmas memories for inspiration. Keltz played just about the sweetest guy you can imagine. Spencer presented Charlotte with her deceased dad’s old truck, a gesture that made her heart—and mine—melt. And old-fashioned guy that he was, he arrived at her door with flowers. Dalton was a natural as Charlotte and brought warmth to her performance, and it was refreshing to see the versatile Keltz not playing a prince in a Hallmark movie!
A good helping of drama. Conflicts that highlighted the leads’ emotional baggage gave this movie weight. Spencer was having trouble moving on after his wife’s passing but was making an effort. An affecting moment occurred when, climbing the stairs with his bouquet to tell Charlotte how he felt about her, he overheard her telling her assistant that a relationship with him could never work. Disappointed, he silently descended the stairs. Spencer later confronted Charlotte, saying she considered him a small-time nobody, and in his fury accidentally spilled coffee on her contest entry, ruining it. Charlotte was pressured by her family, especially her sister, Christina—sensitively portrayed by Joanna Douglas—to spend time with them over Christmas, all while she was striving to create winning designs to boost her faltering career. The argument with Spencer and the family pressure triggered her to lash out at her stepfather, who she saw as taking her father’s place. That’s when Charlotte’s guilt for not having been there for her dad was exposed. The power of Dalton and Keltz’s acting was such that it was easy to sympathize with both characters.
Unexpected design choice! When it was revealed that Charlotte would be participating in a Christmas design challenge, I assumed she’d be designing something glamorous like an evening gown. Instead, cozy and homey was the theme, and she chose pajamas at first, then plaid flannel coveralls. I thought that her choice of coveralls—and the fact that the department store representative was so thrilled with them—added a charmingly quirky note.
A slow start. Initially, Christmas by Design seemed like your standard Hallmark movie about a girl returning to her hometown after being wrapped up in her career for too long, then falling for a local guy. I wasn’t that interested in it until Spencer started becoming a source of inspiration to Charlotte. The movie took time to gain momentum, but it turned into something better than expected, so it’s worth sticking with.
Charlotte’s silly decision. After she blew up at her family, Charlotte was apologetic and determined to try harder to spend time with them. And at the last minute, they banded together to assist her with the men’s and women’s coveralls. Why, then, did she withdraw from the competition when she learned it would be delayed a mere hour or so? Her family had demonstrated forgiveness—and support of her career—and would have understood if she’d stayed for the competition and missed the “pyjamboree.” She didn’t need to prove her loyalty to them by sacrificing her chance to win.
My grade for Christmas by Design: B
Caroline Kaiser is a professional book editor who specializes in fiction and memoirs, and she’s been guiding writers toward publication since 2007. Caroline is also the author of two ghostly mystery novels, Virginia’s Ghost and The Spirits of South Drive. Before she embarked on an editing and writing career, she spent many years working in a Toronto auction house as an antiques appraiser. Apart from curling up on the couch and drinking tea as she watches Hallmark movies, Caroline enjoys baking and exploring London, Ontario, the picturesque city she now calls home. Her website is www.carolinekaisereditor.com.