‘The Spirit of Christmas’ Succeeds Because of Angsty Character Journeys Heightening the Romance

Daniel Forsythe and Kate Jordan in The Spirit of Christmas looking at each other.

There have been multiple instances where I’ve gushed about Lifetime’s The Spirit of Christmasdeeming it one of the best holiday films since the classics. It’s in line with the greats like While You Were Sleeping and The Holiday and perfectly fit for people who adore stories about invisible strings and fate intermingling. However, The Spirit of Christmas also effectively brings to our screens a hero’s journey that’s so deliciously angsty that it captures and underscores why complex characters are necessary for storytelling. At the same time, Daniel Forsythe is peak book boyfriend material—the best kind of romance hero while Kate Jordan is the type of relatable heroine many of us look for.

The Spirit of Christmas is the kind of movie worth watching multiple times throughout the year, and almost every time you do so, there’s a high chance you’ll notice something you didn’t before. In my 17,201,233rd viewing, I caught the words “Like a nightmare that goes on forever. I want to wake, but I can’t.” It comes during such a tender moment that it’s almost shocking the words are so bleak, yet it’s what makes the film’s ending triumph far more evocative. The characterizations for both Daniel and Kate, as well as the genuinely fantastic performances by Thomas Beaudoin and Jen Lilley, add nuances to the characters that drive the narrative to compelling territories.

The Spirit of Christmas Puts Daniel Forsythe and Kate Jordan’s Hearts on Full Display

Daniel Forsythe and Kate Jordan kissing in The Spirit of Christmas

While the narrative has some darker elements that aren’t usually present in sappy Christmas films, the enhanced plot allows the audience to see more heart from the characters. And thereby, it symbolizes the fact that behind every grump, there’s a big heart waiting to be freed from the barricades around it. Daniel Forsythe values his twelve days of solitude because his life is pure torture for the rest of the year. He tells us as much with that haunting line, but he also shows it with his tense frame and the frustrations in his expressions.

It’s not always easy to get as much development on characters when we have such limited time with them, yet through Beaudoin’s performances and the writing, viewers understand that Daniel Forsythe is loyal to a fault and someone who’ll work hard at anything he does. In the words of Miss Swift, “In a world full of boys, he’s a gentleman.” The fact that he suffers for 95 years because of something that isn’t his fault or even as punishable is a horrendous fate to be bargained, jading him for years afterward, forcing him to become someone who doesn’t want to trust another person until Kate comes into the picture.

Part of the appeal of the grump and sunshine trope lies in this idea of healing brought on by respecting and understanding another person’s agency. No one can change because someone is forcing them to, but people can allow others to come closer to the walls ensnaring them. And when that effortless break happens, they start allowing the sunshine to chip away at their layers, brick by brick, unbinding to mend what still needs healing. When we understand the weight that both Daniel and Kate have carried for years, it becomes easier to see why they’re so drawn to each other, willing to commit to seeing each other for only twelve days out of the year.

Further, while Kate isn’t the traditional form of sunshine, and the film is more of a grump and grump relationship, she’s a nuanced fusion of light and dark, bringing both to heighten the stakes and make the romance more of a driving force in unlocking the mystery. Daniel isn’t the only one who opens up after finding someone he trusts, but Kate does, too—she learns to depend on someone else, fully understanding that she wants love and commitment, but until now, no one’s been worth it. And it takes vulnerability on both fronts for their armor to start crumbling. It’s all about trust and transparent moments between the two where their trauma becomes something the other is willing to care for. The angst drives the story because it’s written to move the couple toward one another instead of separating them, making The Spirit of Christmas a character journey worth investing in for relatable beats of emotional intimacy and heartaches amid holiday hijinks. 

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