Starring Shenae Grimes-Beech and Chris Carmack
City girl Carly (Grimes-Beech), a musician, has been asked by Pastor John (Brian Markinson) and his wife, Susan (Janet Kidder), to prepare the church choir in her hometown for a Christmas Eve concert. There, she meets Matthew, who’s just returned home from army duty. He still has feelings for the girl he left behind, Susan’s daughter, Jenny (Lauren Jackson). Meanwhile, Carly is mourning her mom and is without family. Gradually, she finds a sense of community, however, and the bond between her and Matthew grows. But Susan’s keeping a shocking secret from Carly—one that, along with Matthew’s presence, might ultimately encourage Carly to stay in town.
Shenae Grimes-Beech. This actress was excellent in 2022’s When I Think of Christmas, in which she was also cast as a musician. In Time for Her to Come Home for Christmas, she portrayed Carly as a sweet, gentle soul, someone dedicated to her music and able to connect personally to each choir member. She had a palpable if understated attraction to Matthew. Carly reacted with quiet resignation, instead of anger or tears, when she misconstrued Matthew’s feelings for Jenny after observing them. She was a lonely soul too. It was easy to empathize with Carly when she returned to the empty house for her first Christmas without her mother. The loss was fresh and had left her lost and in need of comfort. Grimes-Beech’s performance effectively showed this emotional turmoil; Carly teared up as she performed “Time for Me to Come Home” for Matthew, and again while speaking with Pastor John. I liked this sympathetic character.
Finding family. This was a pleasant movie overall, with Carly discovering a family of sorts—the family we choose—once she began rehearsing with the choir. This aspect of it was heartwarming. She also found a blood relative in Susan (who turned out to be her father’s sister), as well as a cousin, though that revelation was problematic.
An underdeveloped character. Matthew seemed like a nice, easygoing guy, but to the point of blandness. Carmack was given too little to work with; this role wasn’t meaty enough, and I felt as though we knew too little about Matthew. There was no sense of what his life in the army was like, even though he’d just spent five years there and must have been affected somehow by his service. And now that he’d moved on from that phase, what were his ambitions? It was mentioned that he’d be joining the fire department, but if he had any passion about that or any other part of his future, it wasn’t apparent. Mostly all we knew about him was that he liked Jenny and Carly. Unfortunately, the writers didn’t give Matthew significant backstory or hopes and dreams, and because of this, the character seemed hollow and left little impression.
Speaking of blandness . . . Yes, this was a pleasant movie, but the plot was thin. For most of the film, conflict was nonexistent. And everyone was nice—almost too nice—which resulted in an absence of dramatic tension. I liked George (Jay Brazeau), the grumpy old guy who was in the choir, and I found myself wishing he’d stayed grumpy, just to liven things up. What engaged me the most was Grimes-Beech’s performance, but the movie had little else going for it.
A secret unveiled. The one dramatic event occurred near the end, when Susan revealed to Carly that she was her aunt. Not surprisingly, Carly felt deceived. Susan had known the truth all along but wanted to lure Carly home; she thought that inviting her to help the choir was the best way. Though I welcomed this bit of excitement, I couldn’t understand why she waited so long to unveil this secret. Susan had nothing to gain by withholding the truth, and everything to lose. It was underhanded, and she was fortunate Carly wasn’t furious at her for longer.
The music. The choir was laughably bad in the beginning. They couldn’t stay together, which is something children’s choirs can do. Then, as if a switch had been flicked, they sounded like professional singers. The improvement was too sudden, and the film missed an opportunity to show how they journeyed from being lousy singers to good ones. (Compare this to In Merry Measure (2022), in which that process was front and centre.) Time for Her to Come Home for Christmas, like the other five movies in the series, featured Blake Shelton’s song “Time for Me to Come Home.” If you’ve grown tired of this ditty, I understand. It’s worn out its welcome. And it seemed an unlikely song to perform in church.
My grade for Time for Her to Come Home for Christmas: C
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.