Holiday Watch: Silver Bells

Silver Bells, a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, gives us a solid holiday movie that is more deftly written than most. While carrying with it the necessary tropes that attach themselves to most holiday films, they aren’t fumbled as is often the case with some of the less well crafted movies of the genre.

The story has several well-interleaved plots. The main plot concerns the age-old conflict of the young wanting to tramp down their own path being at cross-purpose to their parent who wants their child to walk on the path they tramped down for them. In this case, the plot has the teen, Danny Byrne (Michael Mitchell) running off to find his way in the big city and his father, Christy Byrne (Tate Donovan), trying to find him as best as he can.

Enter Catherine O’Mara (Anne Heche). She had struck up an acquaintance with Danny before he ran away and, when he lets her, help him in pursuit of his dream of being a photographer. In fact, he’s the taker of a series of photos that have become the rage in the city. Danny’s desire to clandestinely reconnect with his sister, Bridget (Courtney Jines), sparks a romance between Catherine and Christy—the main subplot.

Catherine had lost her husband three years before, and Christy lost his wife four years back. Neither one has been able to let go of their loss. With Danny as their common plot device, they slowly come to let go of their sadness and move toward being willing to take a risk.

I mentioned that with so much going on it would be easy for the writer to fumble. This is what separates solid writing from weak. Let me give you an example: the building and museum where Catherine works, and where Danny shows up from time-to-time, would normally be well-covered by video surveillance. There is no way that Danny could have gone undetected for the better part of a year. Clearly there is no video security at all. This is a story choice. Explaining away how Danny evades security creates so many plot headaches that the simple act of removing it as a problem keeps the story moving. More importantly: mention isn’t made of this. Good writing doesn’t underline its tricks.

The movie’s solid writing is augmented by equally solid acting. Given some of the lines that are necessary in a few of the scenes, it takes practiced pros to make them seem natural and not unnecessarily maudlin or melodramatic. My only complaint is that the movie’s pace is a little slow. It feels like there wasn’t quite enough story to tightly fill 90 minutes. This isn’t a major fault, but there are times when the film is a little more deliberate in its pacing than would be ideal.

Silver Bells is one of the movies I happily sit down a watch during the holidays. It talks about family, about helping, about trust, and about accepting that your dreams might not be shared by someone else regardless of how much you might love them. It’s not the best holiday movie ever, but it is definitely a satisfying one.

4.25 of 5 

For more movies, go to the list at: Watching the Holiday Movies

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