‘One Summer’ Review: Taking Time To Grief Is The Best Way To Heal

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‘One Summer’ is the latest tearjerker from the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries films pool which unlike its sister channel Hallmark its content has some depth. This romantic comedy premiered on October 3. 

The feature is adapted from a novel of the same name written by bestselling novelist David Baldacci.  Rich Newey takes the director’s chair for this unusual romcom helming a screenplay penned by Michael Reisz and Maria Nation. ‘One Summer’ runs an incredible one and a half hours and stars Sam Page best known for the comedy drama series ‘The Bold Type,’ Sarah Drew from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and cult classic pundit Amanda Schull from ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Center Stage.’

The narrative tells the intriguing story of Jack Armstrong played by Sam Page. The man is fatally ill, but it is his wife who unexpectedly passes away. This tragedy results in Jack mysteriously recovering from his equally mysterious illness and he goes back to his wife’s Lizzie, played by Amanda Schull, hometown for summer a place where she called ‘The palace.’ Jack takes his kids 15-year-old daughter Mikki played Madeline Grace Popovich and Taylor whose ten with him so they could hopefully all heal from the pain of losing their mom and wife.

With healing comes a new beginning and to lessen their pain, Jack gets himself busy and starts helping out a recently divorced single mother called Jenna a role embodied by Sarah Drew. He has honed some carpentry skills over the years and he puts them to work when he helps Jenna set up a new project for her café. Meanwhile, Mikki is finding it hard to cope with her mother’s death and to make matters worse, she loathes living in the new town until she starts working at Jenna’s café and spends more time with her employer’s son Liam a part by Bryant Prince when the two realize that they both have a shared love for music.

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This new town being his wife Lizzie’s hometown, there is a lighthouse where she loved playing when she was a child. Its now windswept and in shackles, so Jack embarks on renovating it to keep the memories of his beloved better half alive. While in the works, he starts seeing visions of Lizzie and even speaks to her. Lizzie promises Jack through these visions that the family can find happiness in this new place even without her. As the threesome struggles to rebuild their lives they realize that this town and their newfound family could be the key to them being a happy family once more.

The story is quite different from the usual rom coms as the romance here is secondary to the rest of the story. Being about grief, family and starting over, it focuses more on the man rather than the woman.

Though the cast is stellar and the performances superb, there are a lot of plot holes and ambiguities in the plot. For instance, we learn that Jack is suffering from a deadly disease and is on the verge of kicking the bucket when miraculously recovers after his wife’s death, who seemly was healthy. But we never learn what disease it was that ailed him or what prompted his healing.

Though Drew is superb in the few scenes that she appears in, one can’t help to feel like her talents were underused while there was great potential into widening her character. Drew plays a waitress in the town where the Armstrongs go to heal during their summer break. She assists both Jack and Mikki to feel better but she too has gone through a ton of her own challenges as she is a divorced single mum. There is no clear-cut journey for this character despite possessing a mega potential embodied by enormous talent. Diving into her background tale and journey would have added depth and meat to the storyline.

The scenes are squeaky clean, there are no kissing scenes or inappropriate instances in the movie, making it family friendly though again it’s a Hallmark movie so nothing R Rated is allowed in the channel.

The music is great and used well, Madeline’s musical performance, as well as her acting in the movie, is impressive and the locations are breathtakingly gorgeous throughout the movie.

Liam’s character too is as static as his mom’s Jenna but it is exactly the force that Mikki needs in order to start moving forward and its quite heartwarming watching her get better every day through making music with Liam.

The chemistry between Page and the two ladies, Drew and Schull, are both great. The connection with Drew is decent and convincing while that with Schull is definitely solid despite not being steamy. Schull lives to her name playing a ghost in ‘One Tree Hill’ and hits the nail on the head in this role as well.

‘One Summer’ is generally about starting over, romance, family growth and a lot more hence Mikki’s near drowning instance and even the rebuilding of the lighthouse doesn’t add value at all to the narrative. They are simply afterthoughts in an attempt to tie the story together and deliver an ending that makes sense but it terribly fails to achieve this. One is left with the thoughts that, “the story was beautiful but what just happened?”

‘One Summer’ leaves audiences with more questions than answers.  Mikki and Liam obviously have some budding romance going on between them which is okay if the parents don’t hook up as now they will be technically siblings and dating one stepbrother or sister is illegal on TV regardless of when the two meet. So what if their parents get together? Since Jack and Jenna have grown quite close too with ghost Lizzie even sweetly calling out Jack for flirting with Jenna. The movie doesn’t give direction as to what happens love-wise hence viewers are left on a cliffhanger

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Despite the few shortcomings, ‘One Summer’ hits it out of the ballpark and it nicely emphasizes that acceptance without giving up love is healthy grief cementing the fact that grief and love definitely take time.

SCORE: 6/10

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