Starring Kimberley Sustad and Mark Ghanimé
Ceci (Sustad), a photographer, is grieving her father and has canceled his annual Christmas festival, To All a Good Night. She finds Sam (Ghanimé) after he’s been injured in a motorcycle accident. As they await help, he notices her elephant pendant, a gift from her deceased father, and asks her to marry him. Humoring him, she accepts. Ceci tries to visit Sam in the hospital, but he’s not in his room. She’s disturbed to see “land acquisition” on his phone and soon discovers he’s a land developer. Could it be he wants to develop Willow Glen, which belongs to Ceci and Vivian (Karen Kruper), her stepmom? Meanwhile, Sam wonders who rescued him, but everyone is town, including Ceci, admits nothing. And it remains to be seen if she’ll revive her father’s holiday celebration.
This movie was penned by screenwriter Betsy Morris, whose impressive resumé includes 2023’s Guiding Emily and My Norwegian Holiday.
Sustad and Ghanimé. I’ve always loved the down-to-earth warmth and humor Sustad brings to her acting. Although this was a dramatic role, she was no less compelling than she is in her comedic roles. She and Ghanimé worked well together, especially in the movie’s second half, in which Ceci and Sam began dropping their respective masks and getting real with one another. It took a while for the sparks to fly between them, mainly because Ceci was keeping her distance as she tried to suss out his intentions. But when the chemistry kicked in, it felt real and intense.
The big reveal. The movie’s small reveal happened when Sam learned what he’d already suspected—that Ceci was his rescuer. The big reveal occurred when Ceci was given a letter her father had written Sam, and she angrily forced him to come clean about his past. Sam had lost three buddies in his army days, and he became close to Ceci’s dad while recovering from war injuries. He’d hit rock bottom, but Ceci’s dad encouraged him to carry on. Sam was with her dad when he bought the elephant pendant. In the letter, Ceci’s dad, aware he was dying, asked Sam to take care of Ceci and marry her. This was the moving climax of To All a Good Night, and the revelations were overwhelming for Ceci, who needed Sam to leave so she could process everything he’d said. The scene was powerful, delivered with gut-wrenching emotion by the leads.
A thieving dog. Max, an adorable Goldendoodle, added dollops of humor. The dog proudly hoarded the townspeople’s belongings, and it was amusing watching them comb through the shed that housed Max’s treasures. His antics were notorious in the community, and he was even the subject of a newspaper article. I also loved that people hung Max’s finds on a Christmas tree. And the dog played a crucial role in triggering the big reveal, as he stole the letter that was passed on to Ceci.
A plodding first half. I wasn’t hooked by this movie until halfway through, partly because, except for the accident scene, the best scenes were loaded into the second half. And I had issues with the main characters, who didn’t draw me in at first. Sam seemed too enigmatic for too long. He took off without explanation after receiving the letter. And only vague hints of his past appeared: medals mounted on a plaque, a glimpse of a photo of soldiers. He was slow to reveal that he wasn’t developing Willow Glen, and not quick to admit he was working on another project, the nature of which remained mysterious for a while. It was hard to connect to this secretive man; more character development up front would have helped. And because Ceci’s less appealing qualities dominated initially, I had trouble warming to her too. She was suspicious of Sam’s and Vivian’s motives, but without foundation. Ceci also wouldn’t tell Sam she’d rescued him because she wanted to know what his agenda was; however, she didn’t need to lie to learn this. Finally, the depth of her grief wasn’t apparent until late in the film, making her less sympathetic at first than she could have been.
The wicked stepmother-turned-sweetheart. Vivian was cold and abrupt toward Ceci at first. But almost overnight she became a generous, warm-hearted woman who sold her share of Willow Glen to Ceci for a dollar and longed to continue Ceci’s father’s legacy, the festival. It was also revealed that she’d married him despite knowing he was dying. Her sudden transformation into a saintly person wasn’t believable.
An un-Christmassy feel. I realize that many Hallmark movies are filmed in the summertime, but the woods in which Sam crashed his motorcycle were glaringly green with deciduous foliage. Except for some brief flurries, nothing looked wintry. Festive flair was lacking, and even the Bongo Santa toy that kept popping up didn’t help much—it was too demonic. Nothing felt Christmassy until near the end, when people decorated the trees and Willow Glen was lit up for the celebration.
My grade for To All a Good Night: 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.