Starring Rhiannon Fish and David Eisendoorn
In a coffee shop, Jessica Johnson (Fish), better known as JJ, witnesses Henrik (Eisendoorn) being chewed out by a woman who just happens to share her name. After dropping JJ’s coffee and her papers, Henrik tracks her down to apologize. He notices a troll figurine on her desk from his home city of Bergen, Norway. The troll belonged to JJ’s beloved grandmother, who she’s mourning. Henrik is headed home for the holidays and offers JJ a ticket, originally purchased for the other Jessica Johnson, to Bergen. She’s decidedly unimpressed with him but realizes that the trip could provide inspiration for her meteorology dissertation. The two travel there, JJ intent on keeping Henrik at a distance, but she’s welcomed by his family and invited to stay with his grandmother. As she and Henrik grow close, JJ unravels the mystery of how her grandmother acquired the troll figurine.
Prolific screenwriter Betsy Morris wrote this film, as well as one of Hallmark’s most beloved movies of 2023, Guiding Emily. Other credits include this year’s To All a Good Night.
An atypical love interest. Many aspects of this movie were refreshingly different, chief among them Henrik. When he first met JJ, he was like a big clumsy puppy, a “self-proclaimed mess” who she suspected could be a jewel thief. He had no job and no apparent aspirations and walked with a limp. And once he and JJ arrived in Norway, it became apparent that he was an object of scorn; strangers would call him names and jostle him in the street. Henrik was a misfit, but leading man Eisendoorn made him a delightfully down-to-earth, endearing one. Soon Henrik’s tragic backstory unfolded, deepening this character. A downhill skier, he’d missed out on a bronze medal when he injured himself badly. After a long recovery, he decided not to return to the sport but felt that by not doing so, he was stealing Bergen’s dreams of glory. And now he was at loose ends, not sure what to do next. His coach, Anders (Conor Mullen), had reached out, but Henrik ignored him.
A touching tale of lost love. Henrik’s grandmother, Astrid (Deirdre Monaghan), took JJ to visit Anders, suspecting he might know about the origins of the troll figurine. He spun a tale of carving the troll and giving it to JJ’s grandmother. The two had been inseparable but lost touch when he joined the military; sadly, she’d never replied to his letters. JJ knew that her grandmother had left Norway in 1968 for the US and soon had a daughter (JJ’s mother, who she lost at a young age). This emotionally charged scene was beautifully played by Fish and Mullen, their characters realizing that JJ could be Anders’s granddaughter. (Later, they chose to accept each other as such, deciding a DNA test was unnecessary). Overwhelmed by Anders’s story, JJ walked alone through the woods, and Henrik, upon seeing her, ran to her and enveloped her in a bear hug. It was a gorgeous moment of connection that brought tears to my eyes; he knew precisely how she felt and was there to comfort her.
Henrik’s family and their traditions. Love and light animated this movie. Much of it was supplied by Rhiannon Fish’s warm, sweet presence, but also by the actors who played Henrik’s family, the Stroms. Reserved people, the Stroms displayed a low-key, self-deprecating sense of humor, poking fun at themselves. However, they also gently teased one another and even JJ. They laughed at her use of “love” to encompass all types of love, as they had three different words to define different varieties of love. The Stroms readily accepted JJ into their family circle, and Astrid became a maternal figure and asked JJ if she could be her “best mother,” which JJ accepted. And the Norwegian wedding traditions were enjoyable to observe. On the very day Henrik’s sister, Nora (Karen Connell), was to be married, her fiancé proposed. And for the ceremony, they wore traditional clothing, the men’s formal suits with red vests and the women’s embroidered dresses striking to behold.
An unexpected kind of kiss. Shortly after Henrik gave JJ a northern lights pendant to express his love, they leaned in for a kiss. At that moment, a couple of boys ready to taunt Henrik came by, but JJ scolded them before they could say a word, proclaiming that Henrik was to be the new skiing coach. It was a fun, surprising twist on the standard end-of-movie Hallmark kiss.
Bergen, Norway. Much of the movie was filmed in and around Bergen, which added to its appeal. The rustic architecture of the harbour district had a unique charm, especially at night when strings of lights and Christmas trees lit up the streets, providing a festive but tasteful Christmassy glow.
My grade for My Norwegian Holiday: 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.