Hallmark’s My Christmas Family Tree is the first holiday film that made me straight up ugly cry this year. (I’m talking two tissues, blowing my nose ugly crying.) The film’s heart is present right from the start, proving that it’s going to be just the right kind of tear-jerker that’s most appropriate for this genre. It gets you, and it gets you good—so prepare the tissues. You’ll likely need at least one if you’re a sap like me.
Starring Aimee Teegarden, James Tupper, Andrew Walker, Kendall Cross, Ava Telek, Lisa Paxton, Georgia Mae Orchard, and more, My Christmas Family Tree follows Vanessa Hall as she sets out to meet the biological father she discovers on a DNA ancestry match. While everyone’s mostly welcoming, the drama occurs when it seems that there might have been a mistake in pairing the two as another Vanessa Hall also exists. Is she, or is she not Richard’s real daughter?
Where there is way too much singing for my personal taste, the film’s quiet moments are a marvel. There is a gentleness to Teegarden’s Vanessa that feels rightfully placed and makes the family’s warmth to her that much more relatable. I don’t think I’ve seen anything with Teegarden since Friday Night Lights—so Vanessa Hall is pleasantly surprising as an easily likable character. I was rooting for her from the start. (Hence, the article’s title. It had to happen. I have a feeling Eric Taylor would approve of the type of father Richard is.)
While this is Hallmark, and kindness is basically a staple, it’s still somewhat surprising how welcoming the family is. Perhaps because TV tends to touch on the drama through initial hesitancies to allow the climax to act as the resolution, it was easy to appreciate that it is more internal than external in My Christmas Family Tree. (Even little Emilia’s hesitancies didn’t last long.)
Furthermore, whether or not Richard and Vanessa’s DNA tests were a match, the dynamic between the two was heartening in every way, as was Vanessa’s bond with Pauline. Pauline comments on how what is Richard’s is hers, including Vanessa, which was as lovely to hear as Emilia apologizing for her unkindness in the beginning.
Where films like this ultimately succeed for me relies heavily on what I like to call the cringe factor. It was reasonably minimal in My Christmas Family Tree—especially where the familial conversations are concerned. Whether it was Vanessa helping Caitlyn with her dress for the dance or helping Emilia overcome stage fright, none of it felt overtly cheesy or forced; instead, the conversations felt effortless.
The idea of “meant to be” might be cliché as a concept in films like this, but regardless, it feels earned in My Christmas Family Tree. And if I could lose myself in the magic of its resolution, then I call that a win. The magic is palpable in this film, and so much of it is due to the platonic adoration.
The Romance in My Christmas Family Tree
But more importantly—the romance, the reason we’re all here, isn’t it? Kristopher and Vanessa’s bond is so delicately threaded into the story, and it’s somehow close to perfect. (Although not going to lie, for a second, I thought he said his name was Kristoff, and I would’ve at least forgiven the K spelling with that version.) Their love story is also the right kind of meant to be—the effortless friendship that blossoms into something bigger, something lovelier.
Vanessa’s best friend DeeDee (Aadila Dosani) calls her out on the fact that if she has time to binge-watch 30 Christmas movies, then she has time for a boyfriend, and I nearly spat out my coffee. There was absolutely no need for Hallmark to call me out like this—watching Christmas movies is part of my job, okay? But listen, if a man as sweet as Kris came into my life, I’d find a way to make time for him too.
The details that their budding relationship happens after he picks her up, while they shop for Christmas gifts, pick out the Christmas tree, bond over lost parents, and pair up in the gingerbread house making is top-tier stuff. Plus, I appreciate the fact that he also lives in New York, and neither of them is giving up their job for the romance, but instead, they both get to go home to the same place for the holidays while living in the same city together. Now that’s a win. Some of us like our jobs, and the glimmer we get into just how much Vanessa does was lovely.
The chemistry between the two is darling, their scenes are fun, and even though I’m a bit more partial to “the grump and sunshine” trope in these movies, I’ll never say no to a sweet man who can make the woman laugh and appreciate her as she is. It’s a bit like Hallmark’s The Christmas Promise in that way. There’s even a moment where he asks her father if he can be a suitor, and I’m pretty sure that’s my favorite part because, however necessary, the tight bond between all of them was a lovely facet. As was seeing how much all her siblings adore him. Be still my heart.
The film balances romantic and platonic relationships remarkably, plus it includes some grade A holiday decor and fabulous outfits I also need in my closet.
Hallmark is great at revisiting stories as they do with the Father Christmas trilogy, and this is one I’d love a sequel to. An engagement? A wedding? A father walking his daughter down the aisle? More holiday decor? I’m already crying. Who’s with me?
My Family Christmas Tree is now streaming on Hallmark. And if you’ve watched it already, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Similar Christmas Film Recommendation: An Unexpected Christmas starring Bethany Joy Lenz and Tyler Hynes