Starring Amber Marshall and Ben Mehl
Peyton (Marshall) is a guide dog trainer who encourages an English professor who’s recently lost his sight, Trevor (Mehl), to accept a guide dog into his life. His daughter, Annie (Ava Weiss), also supports this idea, and soon Trevor overcomes his reluctance and takes on Max, a golden retriever. Peyton teaches Trevor how to work with Max, and gradually he appreciates how vital the dog is in keeping him safe. And he regains the confidence he lost along with his vision. Meanwhile, Peyton acknowledges that her relationship with boyfriend Chad (Justin Nurse) leaves much to be desired and that she’s attracted to Trevor. But when Trevor is pressured to take leave from his job and Chad tries to sabotage Trevor’s connection with Peyton, the professor reaches a breaking point.
The leads, especially Ben Mehl. The leads’ performances were so natural and nuanced that I didn’t notice they were acting; they simply melded into their characters. Ben Mehl, who’s legally blind, brought realism to his character and indeed the entire movie. Watching him made me acutely aware of the issues that people who are visually impaired face, including avoiding everyday hazards in your path, losing confidence in your ability to take care of yourself and your loved ones, and giving up on your dreams. With sensitivity, Mehl showed Trevor’s frustrations and vulnerabilities, and the character had a disarming honesty that made him sympathetic. I really felt for Trevor as he admitted to Peyton that he often felt as if he was hanging on by a thread. And Mehl was well cast as an English professor; Trevor had dignity and was articulate and passionate about literature. For her part, Amber Marshall excelled as Peyton, a kind, patient soul dedicated to ensuring that clients like Trevor had all the support they needed. Thanks to Marshall, Peyton’s feelings were always clear; often she didn’t need to say a word because her face said it all. This was especially obvious in scenes with Chad, who perplexed and disappointed her.
A bad boyfriend. Justin Nurse takes the prize for playing probably the worst Hallmark boyfriend ever, and he did it brilliantly—with just the right amount of smarminess and cluelessness. Chad thought that his new golf clubs would excite Peyton. He was selfish and unwilling to please her, preferring to take a golf trip with his buddies instead of staying for her company Christmas party and dinner with her and her father. With a smile, he made promises you knew he wouldn’t keep. Chad did have a notion that he should do something nice for Peyton, but he didn’t know what and had to consult his friend “Chainsaw” for ideas! His worst offense was telling Trevor that he was just another client to Peyton and shouldn’t imagine he was anything special in her eyes. I was delighted when Trevor told Chad that although he was blind, he could see clearly that Peyton deserved better—and even more delighted when Peyton finally ditched Chad.
The father-daughter relationship. Ava Weiss, who played Annie, is an endearing young actress I also loved in 2022’s The Most Colorful Time of the Year. Annie and Trevor’s deep connection was lovely to observe. She was greatly concerned for Trevor’s safety, which was why she advocated for a guide dog. She also stood up against the school bully who mocked him. As for Trevor, he adored his daughter and credited her with getting him through difficult times—divorce, losing his eyesight. He went to bat for Annie when the bully pushed her too far and she gave the kid a well-deserved cake in the face; Trevor refused to take any nonsense from the school principal, who blamed Annie instead of the bully.
Dogs. Give me dogs and I melt every time. Who didn’t love Trevor’s trusty canine companion, Max? And the puppies—the future guide dogs Peyton presented at the Christmas party—were bundles of pure love.
Simplicity and understatement. Kudos to director Max McGuire (who also directed Christmas by Design) and writer Keith Hemstreet for crafting a movie that was elegant in its simplicity. Wisely, the focus was mostly on Peyton and Trevor’s developing relationship. And this was one of the more understated Hallmark Christmas movies I’ve seen—no gaudy, over-the-top decorations, and no frantic Christmas activities compensating for a weak plot. Instead, My Christmas Guide offered viewers genuine warmth and human connection against a tasteful Christmas backdrop and wintry Newfoundland scenery. The acting, the writing, the directing—all of it combined to create a gorgeous movie about overcoming adversity and finding love. This one will go down as a Christmas classic.
My grade for My Christmas Guide: A+
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.