Once in a blue moon, Hallmark and Lifetime feature a Christmas film that becomes an instant favorite—one we could undoubtedly call genuinely impressive in every way. Starring Ian Harding, Kim Matula, Reginald VelJohnson, Lori Tan Chinn, and more, Ghosts of Christmas Always brings a riveting, beautiful twist to Dickens’ Christmas Carol.
If you’ve been a frequent Marvelous Geeks reader, you know that we consider Lifetime’s The Spirit of Christmas a top-tier romance holiday film. It’s the gold standard for cheesy romances, and thus, we seldom compare films to it. But hear us out: Ghosts of Christmas Always is up there alongside it. It’s the first 5-star film of the year and maybe, the only one because, predictability aside, this is a challenging tier to reach.
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t watched the film yet, stop reading, then resume reading once you’ve done so because from this point onward, there will be spoilers, and the twists deserve to be seen unspoiled.
To begin, Peter (Harding) and Katherine (Matula) form an instant connection that feels incredibly natural and engrossing. From their first meeting, it’s effortless for the viewers to get a sense of warmth from the blossoming romance, and though it seems improbable at the beginning considering we know she’s one of the three ghosts, it’s still quite palpable. No, it’s not love at first sight, which is refreshing, but it’s something else—it’s deeper, quieter, and surprisingly intimate in a way that’s rarely present in Hallmark films.
In Ghosts of Christmas Always, Peter isn’t the traditional Scrooge. In fact, he’s the grown-up version of Tiny Tim—grateful for everything he has, highly self-aware, and tremendously empathetic. The film initially makes it seem as though the twist on the classic tale is to give him the courage to turn down his father’s job offer, then it allows us to believe there’s been a mistake because Scrooge was supposed to be his father, but as it turns out, this is an angel’s story.
Much like Daniel in The Spirit of Christmas, Katherine doesn’t know how she died, and the mysterious details, such as her photograph present at the charity event, her connection to the Rooty Tooty, and later, the Frog Hollow Angel, move the story onward while we get to know the characters better. For a story that addresses destinies and one that essentially serves as a soulmate romance, both characters have enough agency in the relationship to last a lifetime, which is downright amazing to watch as a viewer.
“Life is a series of choices,” Katherine tells Peter at one point. He wants his life to mean something just like his grandfather’s life did, and in the end, she wants a second chance—she wants a life toward the great unknown, knowing with complete conviction that the place she wants to be is back with Peter. And though the couple is meant to be from the moment we first meet them, it’s essential to highlight the detail that they choose each other in the end. Peter outright decides that though he has another chance to be with his former crush, he doesn’t want to settle for anything less than how Katherine made him feel.
These minute details, along with the quiet moments of comforting intimacy we get with Peter and Katherine as they go through pasts and presents, make Ghosts of Christmas Always feel utterly magical. The film not only evolves a captivating romance this way, but it uplifts the spirit of Christmas by reminding viewers that it’s always been about extending our hands further to those who need it most. It’s about generosity, warmth, and compassion, with hilarious pop culture references that make it surprisingly unique.
Finally, there’s the matter of the Frog Hollow Angel and the revelation of how Katherine died and how Betsy, her best friend, kept her legacy alive. Throughout his life, Peter was waiting for the woman who inspired his grandparents, even if he didn’t know it. In every decision she made, Katherine essentially honored her best friend and vice versa, making the film not only a romance but a stunning homage to platonic relationships. This revelation then seamlessly allowed Peter’s father’s spirit to turn around after understanding what his parents lost for him to uncover the success he has. Thus, watching Katherine go through the past, read the note, and come to the decision she wants, acts as a beautiful showcase of life coming full circle.
When watching films like this, it’s easy to believe that Betsy and Bob not only can but are looking down from heaven, and they now know that Katherine gets her happy ending too. It brings an extra layer of comfort forward that allows us to feel the harrowing weight of grief as we watch how human beings honor those who’ve passed. Katherine might’ve needed more time in the past, but time seldom makes sense when we think about it in a linear form. This way, both Peter and Katherine get a bigger purpose to make their dreams expand while finding a partner with whom they get to share it all. And though they aren’t together, Katherine and Betsy both honor their friendship through generous acts of kindness that change lives for the better.
Lastly, the film wouldn’t be as charming if it weren’t for Reginald VelJohnson as Roy (The Ghost of Christmas Future) and Lori Tan Chinn as Arlene (The Ghost of Christmas Past). The film’s charming cast and intriguing premise make it a yearly must-watch without question.
Ghosts of Christmas Always is refreshing, thoroughly riveting, and gorgeously crafted to tell a memorable love story. Harding and Matula bring a raw, compelling intimacy to the film as Peter and Katherine’s romance evolves through quiet moments like the brush of hands or profoundly longing gazes that exhibit innumerable emotions. The stunning montage the film leaves us with proves how lovely they are as a couple, giving us glimpses of the sweetest kind of future. There’s an evident magnetism between them that makes each moment they share feel like a warm hug while a poignant light pierces straight through the heart, filling the spaces between them.
Ghosts of Christmas Always is now streaming on Frndly TV.