This heartwarming film features a structure that serves as (a) a road picture, (b) a romance, and (c) a Christmas film all packaged into one!
The clever device of the film is the frequency with which Tom Pullman and his daughter Hillary (Hilly) bump into Claire Jameson as they are traveling west for the holidays. It almost seems like fate has destined that the threesome will join forces after Claire's flight in cancelled. The result is a road picture in an old jalopy traveling from Chicago to the Rockies.
In the love connection, the starting point for the relationship of Claire and Tom is an apparent mismatch of the city slicker Claire and the more down-to-earth Tom. But, as the film progresses, Claire lets go of the sophisticated lifestyle of a fashion photographer in the Windy City, and Tom regresses from an uncouth demeanor back to his earlier life as a heady sculptor, prior to the death of his wife Angie. The character transformations in the film were aided by the excellent performances.
A turning point in the film is when Tom, Claire, and Hilly give a ride to a wise old owl, who senses that Tom and Claire are in love. Later, the crusty grandma Rheudel is spot-on when she observes that it is important to "expect the unexpected" in life.
The filmmakers were able to pull off the miraculous in making a road trip interesting that included a flat tire, getting stuck in a ditch, staying at the Apache Motel with a rat or a mouse scurrying about, and a visit to the International Hubcap Museum. These mundane experiences were made palatable due to the growing chemistry between Tom and Claire, as well as the feisty daughter that may have discovered her new mom along the road to Christmas.
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