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‘A Picture Perfect Holiday’ Review: Bickering, Photography, and a Shared Cabin

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Production still from Lifetime's A Picture Perfect Christmas
©Lifetime

Lifetime’s A Picture Perfect Holiday plays with some of the best tropes, and it makes you feel through each of them. There’s a stunning cabin, folks—need I say more? Like most Christmas films, A Picture Perfect Holiday is the right amount of cheesy, fun, and full of plenty of romance.

Starring Tatyana Ali, Henderson Wade, Paula Andrea Placido, Rivkah Reyes, Tito Livas, and more, a photography retreat goes array when Gaby (Ali) and Sean (Wade) serendipitously meet because they’re double-booked in the same cabin. As opposites, there’s riveting banter throughout, leading to moments of quiet intimacy found in reflective conversations and longing gazes. Paired in groups at the actual retreat, in the end, Gaby comes to learn that there is a lot more to photography than the dreams she once possessed.

Some of the most gorgeously romantic moments in the film are the quiet montages featuring photography itself—the act of taking a photo, carefully chosen angles, the perfectly inexplicable moments, and heartwarming little treasures that words could never do justice to.

But Gaby and Sean aren’t the only ones falling in love.

Though they’re already a couple when we meet them, Dani (Placido) and Amelia (Reyes), both trying to figure out the right moment to propose makes for some butterfly-inducing sweetness. And the two of them individually confiding in Gaby and Sean without the other knowing makes their love that much more adorable. Watching two couples blossom and evolve is always better than one—sign us up as in it. In the end, Gaby and Sean set up the perfect bridge proposal for the two, watch from a distance, and I’m not crying; you’re crying.

And thank heavens for snow extending their time stuck together. Gaby not only learns the importance of advancing her photography to other areas, but she grows to love breakfast in the end too. (And Sean’s Christmas Eve morning spread could turn even the grinch’s heart into gold. Ron Swanson might object to the overt cheesiness, but Leslie Knope would hard agree.)

Where in films like this, it’s usually the male who’s jaded by Christmas, in A Picture Perfect Holiday, Gaby is the one who has her reservations as she’s stuck to deal with an overly chipper, Christmas-obsessed (extremely attractive) goon. At one point, Sean wears a buffalo plaid coat, and let me tell you, friends—it’s the perfect sight. They even wear overly cheesy aprons together, and though some of his pajamas are a bit much for me, Sean’s house decorating skills are through the roof. He then buys her a buffalo plaid Christmas robe, and I need the man to drop the store where he bought it from.

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The two listen to each other, challenge each other, and by the end of the film, it’s as clear as day they’re perfect for each other. Stuck together in moments of purely unexpected bliss, the two spend Christmas Eve exchanging gifts and a kiss, only for Gaby to realize on her way to the airport that she doesn’t want to join the staff because freelance allows her to explore more.

“Pictures are the best way to share your life with others.” Thematically, while not necessarily unique or special—the film shows audiences precisely what that means without telling us about it too much. What does it mean when someone who’s often used to controlling the situation learns how to let go? What does it mean to focus on the type of art that matters? The gradual relationship goes from reluctant, forced roommates to friends and lovers through quiet moments of transparency. The playful competitions and the sincere conversations balance them well.

I’ll forgive the film for not utilizing the “one bed trope” better solely because it captures deep longing in the basement darkroom. Oh, and also, there are baby goats, y’all—baby goats.

A Picture Perfect Holiday captures the essence of creativity and the crucial detail of loving what you do. It showcases why personal art is warmer than objective art and how creativity goes hand-in-hand with freedom. She didn’t need to give up her job, but he did need a home base, and the two of them creating new memories together while exploring different parts of photography is aces.

A Picture Perfect Holiday is now streaming on Lifetime.

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