Starring: Erin Cahill and Ryan Paevey
Erin Cahill and Ryan Paevey star in A Timeless Christmas
Image: Crown Media
A Well-Done Time Travel Romance
When Hallmark produces movies that are based on novels by other writers instead of staffers, the refreshing contrast is unique and captivating, rather than heaven-laden with the same, tiresome tropes.
Ryan Paevey plays Charles Whitley, an intelligent, successful, and wealthy entrepreneur, skilled in engineering–in 1903, a forward-thinking man ahead of his time. Decked out in period-appropriate clothing and demonstrating all the proper etiquette of a respectable gentleman, what we suspected all along about Paevey is quite apparent–he is HOT in any era!
To quote the movie Zoolander, Paevey is really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.
A busy man trying to perfect his most recent modernization idea for his steel mill, Charles doesn’t have the time to dote on his fiancee, Eliza Parker, who is miffed he won’t come to the city to her parent’s Christmas party. Oh, to be so rich and pampered to have nothing more to think about than the next social gathering!
After his maid, Rosie, brings him his night cap of sherry, Charles tries to fix the clock he bought for Eliza at an auction. He finds it strange the spring on the clock looks deliberately cut. He repairs the clock and winds it up, giving no regard to the clock’s inscription:
Wind once at the Christmas moon, true love will find you soon.
Had you ever heard of a Christmas moon? The movie explains, it’s like a blue moon–or two full moons in the same month. When this happens in December, it’s considered a Christmas moon (you learn something new every day).
When Charles awakes, he’s in the year 2020, his house is a museum, and he’s surrounded by strangers. Everyone thinks he’s been sent by the agency that provides performers to the Whitley Mansion to entertain visitors–except, he can’t seem to stop playing the part, even when no one is watching. The sheriff intervenes and takes him to the station.
Before Charles can be committed to the looney bin for claiming his birthday is in 1870, Megan Turner, the museum director and descendent of Rosie the maid, comes to his rescue. Not only did she see the tell-tale horseshow scar on his hand, but he also proved his identity by pointing her to a secret compartment in the floor under the rug in his study. She finds his journal, filled with drawings of his inventions.
Is This Story a Hat Tip to A Christmas Carol?
It’s interesting that Megan spends her time and career teaching people about the past. Charles, on the other hand, is from the past but always has his eyes set on goals for the future. In that space-time continuum, their hearts collide.
Although we don’t encounter the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, this well-woven tale lets the viewer step in and out of each time frame.
And, just like Ebneezer Scrooge, Charles has a chance to make a life-altering choice based on all that he learns. Should he return to the past and fix his mistakes, or should he stay in the present (for him, the future) and take a different path?
Hallmark Deviates From the Usual Formula
Hallmark is notorious for neatly tying up loose ends so all conflict is resolved for a happy ending. In A Timeless Christmas
, however, they allow a tiny bit of stress to remain.
Even though Charles decides to stay in the 21st century to be with Megan, it’s a little unsettling that he doesn’t get to return to his former life. Charles had amassed a fortune and was making his mark on the town of Cutter Springs. All of that disappears. To remain in 2020 means his nemesis, Harold Moran, not only gets credit for some of Charles’s ideas, but Moran also builds a revered reputation throughout the town for his contributions, and he steals Eliza. Charles’s wealth is liquidated, and he is forced back to square one in a time that is foreign to him in so many ways.
It would have been nice to have Charles return to 1903, break up with Eliza so she could move on, and secure his finances in some way before returning to Megan in 2020, so his name would have been plastered on more of the town and not just the museum.
The Biggest Plot Hole
It’s easy to get swept away in this romantic tale, but fast-forwarding 117 years poses a major difficulty. Charles recognizes he needs a job because he has zero income. In America, you have to have a social security number to make sure your earnings are reported to the government. Social security numbers were not issued until 1936, so Charles wouldn’t have one. In order to get an SSN, he would have to produce documents to prove his identity. This, of course, is impossible since he can’t reveal he was born in 1870 without being put in a straight jacket.
Hope Megan has connections at the Social Security Administration!
Not to mention, how did the clock become capable of time travel powers? An inanimate object doesn’t suddenly transport people to different eras. How did this happen?
Times Change, But Not Always For the Better
Charles is blown away by devices like mobile phones, electric tree lights, cars and computers. As an inventor, he appreciates progress, even if he doesn’t understand it.
Other things, Charles finds, have not changed for the better. Women can enter a man’s bedroom without being considered forward or immoral, and women can pick up the tab for dinner. These are not positive advancements. Charles is from a noble time where men took care of women, treated them like ladies, and demonstrated the utmost propriety and decency. Women let men be men and embraced their own femininity. When a man helps a woman with her coat, opens doors, pays for dates, and is a gentleman, it’s very attractive.
Charles is shocked he can be in public in jeans, when such apparel would only be suitable in his steel mill. Remember when people used to dress up to go outside their homes? Guess Charles would be mortified to see me in yoga pants and a sweatshirt when I grocery shop!
Is Their Romance Believable?
These days with Hallmark, it seems like there are 60 minutes of commercials for every 60 minutes of movie. Within these time constraints, it’s challenging to make two people falling in love believable with such brief interaction.
When a movie, like A Timeless Christmas, is based on a novel, it’s always a good idea to read it, since the love story has more room for development.
The viewer can assume that since Megan did her college dissertation on Charles Whitley, she was fully immersed into his life for an extended period of time. Equipped with all the knowledge she gleaned from her intense study, she applied what she learned in her job at the museum. Think about it–each day, Megan pretends to live in Charles’s house and time period, and she makes this history come to life for visitors. When Charles appears for real, she would already feel a profound connection to him. It’s like she already knew him.
Image: Crown Media
Charles’s attraction is a little harder to defend. Deep down, he knew he didn’t really love Eliza, but finding out that his arch enemy married her would have been a huge blow to his pride. He worked hard to earn his wealth, so to find out he’d lost it all after he disappeared would have been a bitter pill to swallow. One would think he’d be motivated to return to the past to make changes to impact the future outcome. Megan might take him under her wing and help him navigate the vulnerable situation in which he finds himself, and Charles likely finds comfort in knowing she’s Rosie’s descendant. Still, Megan really doesn’t do anything outstanding that would make Charles want to linger in 2020.
Regardless of how plausible Charles’s attraction to Megan is, A Timeless Christmas is an absolute delight. Even the era-specific vocabulary Charles uses can make the viewer a bit nostalgic.
Does this movie earn a permanent place on the DVR until it’s released to DVD? YES!
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Move over, Erin Cahill, I’m cutting in!
Image: Crown Media