Our Christmas Journey

Well, our third movie of the weekend is the long anticipated “Our Christmas Journey.” This movie specifically focuses on a family with a child with autism. I was actually really reluctant to watch this one because I expected it to be super emotional and I just HATE watching emotional movies. But, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries continues to knock their movies out of the park and I’m really glad I didn’t skip this one.

Holly Robinson Peete plays Lena, a divorced mother of a son with autism, Marcus. Her entire world is caring for him. She has a daughter named Maya as well. The family is getting ready to go somewhere for Christmas. Their family includes Lena’s mom LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY FROM SCRUBS!!! Her name is Robin in this movie. Anyway, they are planning to head somewhere else for Christmas. Maya is upset because she was cast in her school’s Christmas program but will not be able to participate. It is pretty clear that Marcus is her mom’s main priority because when Maya arrives to help decorate Christmas cookies, Lena and Marcus immediately leave so he can do something else.

On the morning they are supposed to leave, Lena procrastinates so Marcus can do some coloring and she can do some laundry. However, when they arrive at their destination, we learn that they’ve missed an important meeting with some sort of program for Marcus. Have to wonder if that is intentional. There to great them at the guest house, is Lena’s ex-husband, Rick. The kids are happy to see him. Rick is anxious for Marcus to try this school/program but Lena is not at all.

Lena focuses on making sure Marcus’s room has all the familiar items he needs to feel comfortable. Before they leave for the trip, Lena explains again what they are about to do and everything ahead of them.

Rick and Lena take Marcus on a tour of the school maybe the next day. The kids all seem to enjoy what they’re doing. However, Lena panics when the tour guide informs her that Marcus will have to stay over the weekend to determine whether he’s a good fit for the program. This seems like a bad idea to spring on both an autistic child and their family. Even Rick seems surprised about it. It takes everything in Lena to agree. However, she soon tries to sneak back to make sure Marcus has something to eat for lunch. She is outed by a happy, barking dog and the program director sends her on her way. The lunch order business is a pretty funny scene actually. She places such a strange order that I wonder if Marcus gets some of his “quirks” from her. But she was actually just ordering something for him. Rick picked up on it immediately. Rick also lets it be known that he is single again, after breaking up with his girlfriend of 2 years. So, that is some interesting information, ISN’T IT.

Meanwhile, Robin is working her own Christmas magic for the owner of the guest house where they’re all staying. The owner lives there with her son. Her daughter goes to the academy too. I believe it’s all called Hope Hills?  Anyway, the owner of the guest house is really having a tough time because this is her first Christmas without her mom. So, Robin tricks her into doing all kinds of Christmas activities to raise her spirits. I think it helps quite a bit.

Maya is also doing her own thing. She gets pretty close to the guest house owner’s son. He is good about including her in all kinds of fun activities and introducing her to other siblings of Hope Hills. That whole storyline is really lovely.

After a day or so, Marcus is able to check in with his family over zoom. Since Marcus is nonverbal, the program director explains to the family that he will be participating in the school’s Christmas program as a reindeer. Then, Marcus hits the table with his hand a few times and Lena gets concerned. BUT she has no reason to be because Marcus was only trying to coax THE BEST GOOD BOY up to the camera. This fluffy golden retriever is the same one Marcus seemed afraid of earlier and the same one that outed Lena trying to sneak Marcus some lunch. So, in general, I think we can ALL AGREE that this dog knows what he’s doing.

Rick and Lena continue to reconnect but Lena wonders if anything has really changed between them. Rick is still a busy business boy and Lena is still wholly devoted to Marcus. They have several moments, including winning and charades and dancing together at the Christmas dance. But, they reach a breaking point when Rick receives a call at 10pm on the night of the town Christmas Tree Lighting to leave the next day for a meeting. When Rick tells his boss that he’s out trying to figure out his son’s schooling, his boss is like, isn’t that women’s work? Get to Chicago!

However, at the airport the next morning, Rick sees a happy family seemingly headed somewhere on vacation. Meanwhile, Lena receives a call from the school and goes into a full panic. When she arrives the school, we learn that Marcus needs a band aid but that its protocol to tell parents. I’m not sure why she didn’t tell Lena this over the phone to save her from that full meltdown, but here we are. When she heads into the doctor’s office, Rick is there. He decided not to go on his mini trip. So things are maybe looking up for them. After Marcus gets his band aid, the program director tells them that Marcus is accepted to the program. Lena is still not sure. She is so worried about how other kids will treat him after a truly harrowing experience with him as a child. Basically, a bunch of kids tried to drown Marcus when he was younger. This experience seems to have prompted Lena to be extremely protective of all of Marcus’s interactions with others. Rick is confident that this program is the right place for him.

On the night of the Christmas program, Lena wants to see how Marcus is really doing. Backstage, she sees a very nervous Marcus, but also sees Morgan, the guest house owner’s daughter, encouraging him and settling him back down. I think Lena has seen what she needs to see! Marcus does a great job as a reindeer during the performance and is very proud of himself afterwards.

After the program, there is an after party at the guest house for all the families. Rick tells Lena that he took/or is considering taking a job as the school’s marketing director, which would allow him to see Marcus every day. He asks her to move there with him. They kiss in front of everyone and everyone is happy about it. And that was that!

Whew, guys, there really wasn’t much room to make fun of this movie. It was really lovely and I know Hallmark took great care to include an actor with autism and to depict the family accurately. Obviously, it looks different for every family but I think they did a great job here. I loved seeing Lena as a mom, even if she was maybe a little too protective-but we could see where it came from. I liked that Maya had a chance to share how all of that made her feel, because I think that is really common of siblings of special needs kids. Overall it was a really great movie! What did you think?

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