Part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection, Silver Bells is a special kind of holiday presentation that does not come around very often. Its leaning isn’t one of spiritual matters, but it does portray the power of family ties.
The Bryne family owns a Christmas tree farm in Nova Scotia and all Christopher Bryne (Tate Donovan) wants is to someday leave his hard earned tree farm to son Danny (Michael Mitchell), who has other aspirations which, over time grows into a continuous source of tension between father and son. Danny loves photography and each year when the family packs up to sell trees in New York including younger sister Bridget (Courtney Jines), Danny finds his passion for the hobby renewed by the many sights and awe-inspiring city-wide scenes he finds. Right before they are to return home, tempers flare, and both Christopher and Danny reach their breaking point which inspires Danny to take his future into his own hands, and he leaves in anger that same night.
A year later, Danny is still nowhere to be found even with one of New York’s finest on the case. Now the relationship between Bridget and her father has become strained while Christopher devotes much of his time to finding his son and restoring his family. Little does Christopher know that his life is about to intersect with Catherine O’ Mara (Anne Heche). The pretty photography museum employee who Christopher has been trying to sell a tree too for years now – in secret she has been helping Danny in the year he has been a runaway… but when Catherine gets to know Christopher and Bridget, she comes to realize that it is not right that Danny hide so much from the people who care for him so.
Although its journey in getting there might be rough, Silver Bells is a story of forgiveness, loss and the importance of family. And, I've come to realize that after watching this movie for several years now on DVD during the Christmas season. Originally, I saw the premiere on television before eventually picking up a copy at Hallmark Stores. When it premiered, I think my family enjoyed it as both a Christmas film and, as a heart-warming Hallmark production, but it did not seem to be something we were anxious to run out and purchase. Each year when my mother and I have since watched it, it has become more favored at my house. Hallmarks generally always manage a deeper message than the surface presents and this production follows in those footsteps. There are some faith themes albeit subtle, but it is not disclosed what the denomination is; references imply the church’s “vigils” are catholic.
Another thing that Hallmark generally blends well is its dramatic turns or reality along with a healthy dose of comedy or simply, some sweet subplots such as Catherine’s friend Lizzi and the officer in charge of Danny’s disappearance. I liked the way the characters interacted, making the film come across as a possibly real-life scenario. There are two father-son relationships in the film that unfold, and while one is minor considering everything else in the story, both will probably relate to some viewers since they are both “realistic.” Danny was attempting to make his father see that his aspirations lay elsewhere, certainly not at a Christmas tree farm, and while he does speak to his father disrespectfully on occasion, his father also does not take sufficient time to listen or be fair with him. Most of the movie is clean with only a father-son tension and occasional disrespect present. But… there are a few things viewers may find fault with. One problem my family cannot quite get past is the fact that Christopher (he is called “Christy” in the film, a name that has not grown on me for men even in a two-hour film) is a jerk in the film and it is never really resolved at the conclusion. He is fine for a while and you think “okay, he learned something” but then he turns around and is thoughtless or… well, rather stupid.
Silver Bells is another entertaining Hallmark that is well worth renting (if you are able to find it). It has nice production values with film of beautiful scenes and the landscape in Nova Scotia (I have not idea where it was really filmed) was stunning. Acting is well done with just a few obvious times where it is a bit too “pretend” and unnatural. It is worth the two hours though as the story was lovely.
(Rated TVPG because… two men get into a mild scuffle with some punches thrown. Someone falls off of a 40-feet high rooftop and it is not known for a period of time whether the person is alive or not. There is lying between father and children.)