It’s been 12 or so hours since My Christmas Family Tree premiered and I have already watched it twice. Have you ever watched something and been like wait, what did I just watch? BUT that being said, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s because you’re so used to a formula and when it changes you are a little confused and surprised, but happy.
My Christmas Family Tree – I am going to have a struggle finding the words to describe it and I am rarely at a loss for words. Some would say that I am good at talking shit, but finding the ways to describe something that I love, is a hard thing. It’s like I feel as though I will not find all the words to give whatever it is the praise that it deserves. Aimee Teegarden, Andrew Walker and James Tupper make this movie endearing.
Vanessa (Teegarden) has never had a real family to celebrate with during the holidays, but when she receives the results from her family tree DNA test, she discovers a family she didn’t know existed. Richard (James Tupper), her biological father, invites her to spend the Christmas weekend with him and his family. Richard asks a family friend, Kris (Walker), who joins them every Christmas, to pick her up on his way. Kris knows all the details of her new family and helps break the ice when she meets Richard’s wife and their three children for the first time. It’s a bit uncomfortable at first but the family takes part in their Christmas traditions. As the weekend progresses, Vanessa meets her grandmother and other relatives, and even helps her little sister overcome stage fright before performing at the Christmas pageant. Vanessa is having a wonderful time getting to know her new family until she gets a message from the DNA testing company with some surprising news that she worries may jeopardize her holiday.
Taking an online DNA test is an interesting thing. I think that we all want to know where we came from, what the parts of us are and mean, and find connections with people. When you’ve lived your entire life with just memories of the people that you love and not knowing all parts of you, I can’t even imagine how lonely that would be.
Vanessa spent a majority of her life in foster care, her mother dying when she was 9, and never knowing her father. Taking an online DNA test, she found a paternal match and through the power of social media, she immediately found him on Facebook. Her best friend encourages her to reach out and I have to say she has a lot of her courage because she does.
There is no anger on Vanessa’s part and her Dad, Richard, meet up. They are awkward around each other and Hallmark starts planting the seeds that something could be wrong. But it’s like any movie, you need to pay attention to the details, because the details will lead you where you need to go.
Now, Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday – I like to spend it alone. But Vanessa, she’s just one of those people that enjoys the holiday, and when he invites her to spend the holidays with his family, she agrees.
Now, we know that in every Hallmark holiday movie, we’re going to get people falling in love. In comes Christopher, a handsome attorney, ready to drive her to Connecticut to spend Christmas with the family. He’s been an honorary part of the family for his entire life – his Dad having served with Richard. When his parents passed away he started spending Christmas with the family.
The natural ease between Vanessa and Christopher makes you root for them from the beginning. The two are adorable and the way he immediately looks at her like he found a piece of his heart… well even my Grinch heart grew. Teegarden and Walker make you smile when they are on the screen together. They make you want to root for them, no matter what happens.
Arriving at her Dad’s, the reception from her new siblings is kind of cold, but as young kids, it is no surprise. They are somewhat confused and to be real, the reception could have been so different.
Richard and his wife Pauline are doing everything to make Vanessa feel involved and at ease. Richard obviously wants her to be okay and feels as though he needs to make up for time. But, he’s a little confused by the fact that Vanessa didn’t know somethings about her Mom. Chris is able to put his mind at ease.
I get that Richard is a little apprehensive at the things that Vanessa didn’t know about her Mom, but in all fairness, Vanessa was 9 when her Mom died. She didn’t know a lot about her Mom and never got to know things because she was so young. I am chalking it up to fear on everyones part, but the obvious things that an outside would think, they are not thinking about.
The DNA company is reaching out to Vanessa, and it takes a few days before she is able to hear from them. They leave a message, saying that there was a mixup with the results – there are two Vanessa Hall’s, and the system interchanged the results.
I can tell this is a Hallmark movie, because me, I would immediately be calling a lawyer and ready to sue their asses off. But Vanessa is instantly worried about how to talk to Richard, because she’s fallen in love with the family. It’s the first place she has felt like she’s home in a long time.
The timing is never right to tell Richard the truth and I get it. How do you break that bond that has formed? And how do you do that to kids? Everything feels like too much and that is because everything is too much.
During this whole time – who is there for her? Christopher. He’s always checking on her. He’s making sure she is okay. He is watching out for her and you can see that he is falling for her. Though I am watching this movie and my heart is breaking for Vanessa and Richard, I am still rooting for these two.
I am rooting for them even more when Christopher asks Richard if he can date Vanessa. He’s admitting that he likes her and asking permission? This is a man that cares about relationships, family, and really cares about protecting Vanessa’s heart.
The entire family – extended and all – shows up on Christmas Eve and the love that Vanessa feels from them all is overwhelming, but offering her a sense of comfort that anyone would find peace in. She’s wrapped up in it, but feeling guilty for not telling Richard what the DNA test place said.
In the middle of it all, Christopher finally asks her out. Honestly one of my favorite moments when he asks her out and tells her not to think about it and just say yes. He totally lawyers her, but she needs it. She needs some guidance to see that life is all around her and she deserves all of it.
When the family Christmas photo comes around, Vanessa feels the guilt and pain overtake her and tells the entire family what happened. It wasn’t her fault what happened and she’s in just as much pain as the other members of the family. But having to tell them what happened is a lot.
I can also understand why she felt the need to leave. Christmas with everyone was too painful. Way too painful. It’s the looks on Richard and Christopher’s face watching her leave that broke me. Then seeing Emilia’s face in the window as she waves goodbye. I was done.
But then it’s the look back moment. The moment when Vanessa looks back at the family that she’s leaving and how Teegarden shows that pain in her eyes that broke me. I can’t even imagine, wanting something your entire life and then having it torn from you.
It is a lot. Too much for anyone to handle.
But even as tears streamed down my face, I knew that Hallmark wouldn’t leave me sad. I knew it, but still had a hard time in the moments that it took for the movie to find its ending.
Richard is able to find a picture of Vanessa’s Mom. He finally realizes the reasons why Vanessa didn’t know certain things. He realizes that “Trish” isn’t her full name, it’s Patricia, which is why Vanessa only knows “Patty” as her mom’s name.
He’s sent Christopher to chase after Vanessa, already. But now, he knows that he and his family also need to go to see her in the city. They need to tell Vanessa that she is their sister and daughter. They need to tell her they love her.
When they arrive in the city, they are caroling outside her window and she hears them – which ironically is the part of this movie that I believe the least. Living in NYC, right in Manhattan, you aren’t going to hear people on the street singing for you. It is NEVER that quiet. EVER.
Seeing this family come together is beautiful. Seeing the way that Richard and Vanessa accept each other and there is this instant love between them, I love. He is a great father and he is there for his kids.
Vanessa bonding with her sisters and brother, as well as her stepmom are touching moments in the movie. It goes to show you that if you have an open heart, you can find space to love everyone and anyone.
The entire family coming to her apartment, including her Grandma, but then Christopher showing up and telling her that he’s fallen in love with her, my heart swelled. It was such a beautiful ending to a beautiful movie.
Hallmark went outside of their formula for this movie, and it was worth it. I would hope that they take chances like this more often.
Definitely in my top 10 Hallmark Christmas movies of all time.