Hallmark’s The Christmas Promise is mostly engaging even when it takes some questionable turns for the sake of drama that feel uncalled-for. It’s a story that surprisingly takes some time with grief and allows its characters to deal with the heartaches in front of them.
It allows its characters to move forward organically.
Starring Torrey DeVitto, Dylan Bruce, Patrick Duffy, Jesse Moss, Karen Holness, and more, The Christmas Promise follows Nicole (DeVitto) as she works through the grief of losing her fiancé and making the decision to sell the properties they owned together. Initially at the beginning of the film, I had presumed the fiancé she so lovingly co-owned a toy shop with would turn out to be the kind of no-good partner Hallmark tends to always throw in. In the brief time we knew Henry, we also got to know the kind of person Nicole was—happy, helpful, and spirited.
DeVitto’s performance throughout the film is also incredibly nuanced, which is a rarity in films like this. The instances where she brought forth Nicole’s grief were wholeheartedly believable. (And moments with her grandfather especially were the sweetest.) It’s also lovely that The Christmas Promise features an active, healthy friend group, and though I wish we got to see a bit more of them checking on Nicole, the moments we got were great in the short time slot. (It’s okay, Hallmark, you can go longer than 1 hour and 30 minutes at some point.)
Dylan Bruce’s Joe was surprisingly cheerful. It was a fascinating surprise between the grumpier males we’ve seen lately, though, at times, I wanted a bit more vulnerability from him. Though the chemistry was inexpressible, the film could have been top-notch if there was a bit more longing from both parties.
Nevertheless, it was easy to attach ourselves to Nicole and Joe’s story from the moment they met. It was easy to want them together. And knowing that it’s what Henry would have wanted for her too, it was effortless to want to see Nicole get a second chance at love.
And while the whole You’ve Got Mail type arc with Henry’s number being assigned to Joe was a bit hard to believe, more than anything, it was Joe’s decision to walk away from that I’m still trying to grapple with. While the sap in me can absolutely go hard with the whole “it was meant to be all along,” and I’m someone who believes fervently in the idea of signs from those who’ve passed, the conflict could have been handled better.
I would much rather have seen Nicole perhaps struggle with the idea that it’s Joe, or even a job opportunity present itself to pose a challenge for him. For a film that felt incredibly thoughtful throughout, this decision didn’t work for my personal taste.
But no matter—The Christmas Promise is a beautiful film about shared grief and second chances. It’s a film about friendships, heartaches, and love, but more than anything, it’s a film that emphasizes the palpable difficulty of navigating through darkness. And grief isn’t just present through Nicole’s character, but we see it in her grandfather, we hear about it through their friends, and we understand the weight of it in Dylan’s decision.
As much as I don’t like the decision he makes before setting things straight—I understand it. It’s difficult to be someone’s anchor in trying times. Sometimes, it doesn’t require much—it’s effortless, but if there are strong feelings, fears of failure can be louder than wisdom. And that’s what grief is at the end of the day. It’s give and take and shared trauma until people find glimmers of joy in moving forward again.
The Christmas Promise includes mutual pining, stunning holiday décor, loads of ugly (but lovely) sweaters, and dreams coming true for everybody. At the end of the day, it’s a win despite its flaws. The fact that Nicole sold her store to someone she knew and loved while then opening a knit shop? Excellent choice. The fact that she’s keeping the house that Joe remodeled? Excellent choice.
The Christmas Promise is now streaming on Hallmark. Have you watched it already? If so, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.