Starring Jessy Schram and Chandler Massey
Juniper (Schram) is a globe-trotting marine biologist who’s getting set to go to South Africa. At Christmastime, she returns home to Mystic, Connecticut, at the request of her friend Candice (Patti Murin) of the local aquarium and rehab center. There, Juniper will handle the release of a seal named Peppermint to the wild and oversee a trio of interns. Candice’s brother, Sawyer (Massey), the owner of a pizzeria, still lives in Mystic. A decade ago, he and Juniper spent a romantic weekend together that ended on an awkward note, leaving nothing resolved. After they decide to forget the past, Juniper and Sawyer start weaving their way back into a relationship, but their differences and reluctance to communicate honestly stand in their way.
A lighthearted tone. If you’re looking for a carefree, breezy Christmas movie that never gets too serious even when you expect it might, Mystic Christmas is for you. Even when Peppermint’s well-being was in peril and the leads were having a heated argument, this movie never felt heavy.
Charming leads. Schram and Massey were charismatic leads and had an amazing rapport. Once the awkwardness between their characters passed, it was as if they’d spent no time apart. The conversation flowed easily between Juniper and Sawyer, and they were forever trading quips. For all their talk, however, they couldn’t bring themselves to discuss the elephant in the room—what stood between them. But that started to change. When Peppermint developed an infection, Juniper texted to cancel her date with Sawyer, who, though disappointed, sent only a thumbs-up in response. When they next met, they avoided talking about the cancellation and Sawyer’s reaction to it. But their issues with one another leaked out in an argument. Juniper wouldn’t settle down in one place because she was afraid of becoming too attached to someone and having her heart broken. And Sawyer wouldn’t leave Mystic because he didn’t want to abandon those he felt needed him; the only time he’d ever left, his father died.
An exceptional supporting cast. This movie was well cast. Patti Murin, who was a delight in 2022’s In Merry Measure, was also a bright light here as Candice, a cheerful, fun-loving person and also a perceptive one. Candice saw exactly what was wrong with Juniper and Sawyer’s romance and wasn’t afraid to insist that it was doomed if they failed to confront their problems. Then there were the fresh-faced interns; Juniper wasn’t confident she could connect with Peter, Eric, and Theresa (played by Eric Freeman, Ralph Adriel Johnson, and Sasha Diamond respectively) and get them on side, but she needn’t have worried, as they had her back right from the start. Not to be forgotten was Nick Jordan as Nick the baker. In an entertaining scene with Juniper, he made selecting pastries for the purpose of helping her build bridges with the interns the cutest thing ever. Finally, there was Delaney Quinn, the little girl who played Louisa, Candace’s daughter. She was precious, especially while reciting her poem about the true meaning of Christmas to the sea lions, and later to the human audience at the aquarium’s holiday party.
A clever script. Hats off to the writers of this film, Nicole Drespel, Christy O’Connor, and Andrew Gernhard. The uplifting, warm-hearted story moved along briskly and hit all the right notes, and the smart, rapid-fire dialogue was reminiscent of the best screwball comedies.
Flippered friends. The two sea lions who formed Louisa’s first audience were adorable as they looked away from her on cue. And Peppermint, the harbor seal being prepared for release, had a winsome expression and captured my heart. It’s interesting to note that Peppermint was played by Cork, a rescued seal who has lived at the real Mystic Aquarium for the past decade, since he’s just too happy around people to be released into the wild. When Peppermint finally made her way to the ocean after recovering from illness, I didn’t know whether to applaud along with actors who were cheering her on or to cry. It was a touching moment.
Magical Mystic. The historical village of Mystic was a quaint, picturesque setting for the Christmas activities the characters enjoyed, adding to this film’s wonderfully festive feel.
My grade for Mystic Christmas: 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.