“Christmas With the Darlings” aired on November 8, 2020. It starred Katrina Law and Carlo Marks and was filmed in Vancouver, Canada. Catherine Cyran directed the movie, and while I didn’t recognize her name when it scrolled by during the credits, she directed last year’s “The Christmas Duet” and A Homecoming for the Holidays. Tracy Andreen provided the script, and is a prolific Hallmark writer, having previously penned The Story of Us and one of my favorite perennial Christmas Hallmark movies, 2017’s “Christmas Getaway.”
In a nutshell
Sometimes I lay down on my sofa when I watch TV. If a show or movie does not keep me engaged enough, it is very easy to begin catnapping through the program. However, this weekend as “Darlings” began, I lay on my sofa, and not once did I ever catnap. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.
Plot (from Hallmark Channel website)
When assistant Jessica gives her final notice, she is drawn into helping Max, the charming, younger brother of her wealthy boss as he looks after his orphaned nieces and nephew through Christmas.
Carlo Marks was perfectly cast in this movie. Let’s start with that statement. He’s been in other Hallmark movies where I felt he wasn’t quite the right fit, but in “Darlings” he was outstanding. He played the character of Max so, so well and completely charmed me. Additionally, Katrina Law is so lovely and strikes the right balance between funny and sweet – I wish she made more Hallmark movies.
But we need to talk about THE KIDS. THOSE KIDS! Anthony Bolognese and real-life siblings Islie and Madeline Hirvonen were so, so good. All three of them were outstanding. Some may recognize Bolognese as Autumn Reeser’s son in last year’s Christmas Under the Stars, but sisters Islie and Madeline stole the movie for me. I just can’t gush about them enough.
Six Degrees of Polaha: Katrina Law is 3 steps away from Kris Polaha. She had a role in 2005’s “Choker” (later renamed “Disturbance”) which co-starred Anthony John Denison. Denison has previously starred in 2002’s “Now You Know.” One of his co-stars was Louis Herthum, who joined Polaha for 2014’s “Atlas Shrugged Part III.”
I thought the chemistry for the entire cast was working on all cylinders. This category scored HIGH on my spreadsheet. I like the dynamic between Law and Marks. I loved the dynamic between the leads and the kids. In addition, I also completely felt the brotherly dynamic between Carlo Marks and Steve Bacic, who played the workaholic older brother. Whoever cast this movie did a GREAT job.
You guys – I almost ran out of room on my notepad because of all the tropes I wrote down. The movie started right out of the gate with Jessica decorating the tree and then followed up later with Jessica, Max, and the Cute Kids decorating trees outside with homemade crafted ornaments. Two tropes in one! Macabre, I know, but we had two sets of dead parents (Jessica’s mom and the kids’ parents). We had a brief shot of some carolers in town, followed by hot cocoa (complete with whipped cream on the nose).
We had cookie baking in the kitchen complete with flour getting thrown around. At some point, Jessica was out getting coffee (or cocoa) with the family lawyer and held her mug with two hands. Since I could not confirm whether or not she was supposed to be drinking coffee or cocoa, I did not give myself a bonus point for the two-handed mug hold.
There was a Christmas festival, at least one big scarf, and more crafts. We also had a snowball fight and snowman-building with *gasp* what looked like REAL SNOW?! See that snowman in the picture below? That thing is clumpy and misshapen and he looks WONDERFULLY REAL.
Bingo Card Score for “Christmas With the Darlings”
BINGO! I got a bingo, you guys! I covered 12 spots on my card and finally scored a BINGO! It made me so happy. =) Feel free to download my free bingo cards and play along!
Did I Hear/See That Right?
Despite how much I enjoyed the movie, I did have a couple of issues. First, their name was DarlingTON, so why was the movie called “Christmas With the Darlings?” I’ve read the original title was “A Family Through Christmas,” which isn’t necessarily any better, but surely there was a better title out there somewhere.
My biggest plot point that I disagreed with was at the end of the movie when Big Bro agrees to give Max a chance and orders him to immediately fly to Taiwan to get started in his new role. Um…dude…it’s a couple of days before Christmas. NO ONE is doing business right now, ESPECIALLY your new client which only hired you because your BROTHER showed him that the Darlington business cared about FAMILY FIRST. There is NO WAY that Mr. Lee (the new client) would expect Max to be in Taiwan right before the holidays. I know the movie had to have something that forced Jessica and Max to say goodbye to each other as the conflict, but this was not it.
Serious feels from this movie. First, we had another Christmas puzzle. Love that. I also loved the fact that over the course of the movie Jessica found out that Max was not the vagabond bad boy of the family. In fact, he bought gifts for kids in need and donated each year to the Boys & Girls Club. He wasn’t ignorant of the company machinations, and in fact, knew a lot about what was going on with the family biz. At one point Max tells her, “You do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” That’s something I tell my kids all the time (and hope someday it sticks *lol*).
I had an angry feel during the Christmas party when Max was clearly hitting it off with Mr. Lee, the potential client, only to have Big Bro come over and almost mess everything up. Max had taken the time to do the research and worked with Jessica to create this family atmosphere for the party, and Big Bro was trying to make it seem like a formal working dinner party. Step off, Big Bro!
My last happy feel came when the housekeeper lets the audience in on the fact that Max has had a crush on Jessica since he met her 2 1/2 years prior. Oh that we could have had a couple of flashbacks, or a few scenes earlier in the movie, to make it clear that he likes her more than he shows. It would have knocked this movie out of the park for me. But I was still happy to have that thread in the movie nonetheless.
“Christmas With the Darlings” is another movie I kept on my Tivo after watching it. I know I’ll want to see this one again before the season closes out.
I have loved this year’s batch of Christmas movies. “Christmas With the Darlings” nudges out “Christmas Sweater” to take the fifth spot. Somehow “Sweet Autumn” continues to hold its own in the Top 5 – but there are many more Christmas movies to go. Will I end up with a Christmas-only Top 5? Only time will tell!
In other news, I will not be reviewing “The Christmas Ring” this week but have added that movie’s score below so that everyone knows where it fell in the rankings. While I liked some aspects of it, I found myself mentally checking out from that movie despite a good cast.
- One Royal Holiday (air date: Oct 31) – 722 pts – weighted score: 121.8 (85.5%)
- On the 12th Date of Christmas (air date: Nov 1) – 707 pts – weighted score: 119.2 (83.6%)
- Sweet Autumn (air date: Oct 17) – 693 pts – weighted score: 118.5 (83.1%)
- Deliver by Christmas (air date: Oct 25) – 697 pts – weighted score: 117.4 (82.4%)
- Christmas With the Darlings (air date: Nov 8) – 691 pts – weighted score: 117.2 (82.2%)
- Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater (air date: Nov 7) – 681 pts – weighted score: 115.8 (81.2%)
- Cranberry Christmas (air date: Oct 31) – 650 pts – weighted score: 112.1 (78.6%)
- Matching Hearts (air date: Feb 8) – 640 pts – weighted score: 109.0 (76.5%)
- Winter in Vail (air date: Jan 4) – 623 pts – weighted score: 108.8 (76.4%)
- Wedding Every Weekend (air date: Aug 15) – 639 pts – weighted score: 108.3 (76.0%)
- Love in Store (air date: Feb 22) – 637 pts – weighted score: 108.2 (75.9%)
- Love on Harbor Island (air date: Aug 8) – 634 pts – weighted score: 106.9 (75.0%)
- The Secret Ingredient (air date: Feb 15) – 617 pts – weighted score: 105.2 (73.8%)
- Country at Heart (air date: Oct 3) – 611 pts – weighted score: 104.1 (73.1%)
- You’re Bacon Me Crazy (air date: Apr 4) – 591 pts – weighted score: 104.0 (72.9%)
- My Best Friend’s Bouquet (air date: Oct 10) – 599 pts – weighted score: 103.4 (72.5%)
- The Christmas Ring (air date: Nov 7) – 609 pts – weighted score: 103.3 (72.5%)
- Fashionably Yours (air date: Apr 11) – 594 pts – weighted score: 102.6 (72.0%)
- Follow Your Heart (air date: Oct 4) – 585 pts – weighted score: 101.6 (71.3%)
- Christmas Tree Lane (air date: Oct 24) – 574 pts – weighted score: 100.3 (70.4%)
- A Valentine’s Match (air date: Feb 1) – 562 pts – weighted score: 99.8 (70.0%)
- Love On Iceland (air date: Jan 18) – 563 pts – weighted score: 99.4 (69.7%)
- Hearts of Winter (air date: Jan 25) – 561 pts – weighted score: 98.2 (68.9%)
- Jingle Bell Bride (air date: Oct 24) – 558 pts – weighted score: 97.9 (68.7%)
- Just My Type (air date: Mar 28) – 565 pts – weighted score: 95.4% (66.9%)
- Bad Date Chronicles (air date: Feb 28) – 520 pts – weighted score: 91.0 (63.9%)
- Love in Winterland (air date: Jan 11) – 508 pts – weighted score: 90.7 (63.6%)
- Nature of Love (air date: Apr 18) – 520 pts – weighted score: 90.3 (63.3%)
- Chateau Christmas (air date: Oct 25) – 502 pts – weighted score: 87.3 (61.3%)
- Amazing Winter Romance (air date: Jan 20) – 487 pts – weighted score: 85.6 (60.1%)
- Love Under the Olive Tree (air date: June 20) – 473 pts – weighted score: 85.0 (59.6%)
- In the Key of Love (air date: Mar 14) – 470 pts – weighted score: 82.5 (57.9%)
- Love in the Forecast (air date: Jun 13) – 440 pts – weighted score: 72.5 (50.8%)
- Midway to Love (air date: June 26) – 410 pts – weighted score: 69.0 (48.4%)
- Falling at Look Lodge (air date: Sept 26) – 350 pts – weighted score: 64.0 (44.9%)
- Romance in the Air (air date: Aug 1) – 367 pts – weighted score: 63.2 (44.3%)
- Follow Me to Daisy Hills (air date: Sept 19) – 337 pts – weighted score: 62.8 (44.1%)
- How to Train Your Husband (air date: May 16) – 350 pts – weighted score: 62.5 (43.9%)
To see where this movie lands in my overall rankings of Hallmark movies, visit my Hallmark Movie Rankings page!
What did you think of “Christmas With the Darlings”? Comment below and let me know!