Some love stories have a cheerful demeanor with that instant satisfaction reaction but no lasting impression, others use cheap gimmicks to equate love with something it is not and then there are the rare few that are timeless. The Lost Valentine fits into the last category.
After fifty years, Caroline Thomas (Betty White) is still completely devoted to her husband. February 14th, 1944 was the one day that forever altered her life. A Navy Lieutenant who became a pilot during the war that was the day her Neil shipped out… and never returned. Classified as missing in action, still to this day, Caroline has had a standing date at Grand Central Station on February 14th to uphold her promise to “wait” for Neil. When a news program celebrating the feel-good taste of America learns of this devotional story and the meaning it could have for the viewers, they send in their best journalist. Young, idealistic and a bit cynical, Susan Allison (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is tired of these assignments, despite them being what given her a prosperous career. Still she sets out to get the story for her latest broadcast piece. Bored with the idea in the beginning, Susan comes to empathize with Caroline’s plight. Along with befriending her grandson, Lukas (Sean Faris), Susan becomes invested in the story and sets about trying to give Caroline closure.
For the past sixty years, Hallmark has brought quality programs to our television screens. In those years, each two-hour tele-film has offered diverse scenarios. This one in particular was their first romance in a long while, or the first to leave any kind of impression. It is not just a fleeting story of romance but one of courage and everlasting – true, love. It’s really not that this is a new concept or that some of the moments can’t be predicted but rather that it retains a kind of beautiful, down-to-earth charm. Some of us might fight the notion of a woman hanging onto her first love for half a century hard to logically accept, and while I can “get” that, it didn’t affect my opinion. Caroline may not have ever continued her life through marriage but she did still live life to its fullest; her son received endless love and she was active socially.
Since there are two stories edging towards a superior meaning, the movie transfers between modern times and the forties. Flashbacks are idyllic showing both the free, innocent times along with the sadness that encased many on the home front. Music is a lot of fun being of the swinging 40’s genre and a lot of sequences just leave you with a silly smile because they are so wonderfully told. Partly due to its multi-generational arc, filming was really interesting. There were a lot of simplistic perspectives that seemingly are unimportant shots with a purpose to merge those eras in a nostalgic manner. As I always do – being such a particular about the casting and characters that go along with that, kudos must be given to the cast. Despite her being everywhere nowadays, White was never better. Her performance was believable and emotionally charged. Jennifer came off as likable, even by her clichéd characteristics and it was entertaining to see Sean Faris in a role as an adult instead of just a high school president (Yours, Mine and Ours) – in my humble opinion, he has a lot of talent and carries this role with the star-power potential of a leading man (further proof exists in Christmas with Holly). It is always refreshing to come across a story that the entire family can watch, although this is perhaps best seen through the eyes of a more mature audience since it doesn’t have much in the way of easy banter that leads to flowery conclusions.
Hallmark and frequent producer Brent Shields have a unique way of crafting stories that resonate with their audience. I won’t pretend that some have been less than memorable but most are unforgettable because of the picturesque snapshot of life. (Some may know this by The Last Valentine, which is the novel title.) Any story that links two romances can pose serious problems no matter the picture, here the modern day parallels work better than I’d have imagined – just call me a hopeless sentimental. Of course, the recent influx of period dramas set in the 1900’s changed the way I saw this. I was so biased by Jane Austen era dramas that it never occurred to me how catching this timeframe could be, a genre I have learned to appreciate. It pulls the watcher into reflective times of reminiscing, and specifically for this period, a sense of gratitude for the men who fought to give freedom.
The story does tend to be emotional, it’s a journey of sorts for two very different women, and its one that while I do recommend must also add that you’ll need a hankie. Nevertheless, the romance of the past was just as enchanting as was the current day love story.
(Parental Concerns: One scene involves gunfire which does kill a man after he is hit in the back; another shows two pilots badly injured.)