Christmas Ever After Review: Does this Romance Jump off the Pages?

Lifetime, Movie Review, Television, TV Movie

Don’t you love a happily ever after?

A romance novelist finding love with the man between the pages is a surprisingly lovely setup, and it made Christmas Ever After charming.

Also, you know, the fact that Ali Stroker starred in this film didn’t hurt.

Ali Stroker starring in a Christmas romance is one of the few positive things to make it on the 2020 Bingo card.

She and Daniel Di Tomasso, who looked like a hot Jesus, right down to the handyman shtick and was just breaking hearts and getting heartbroken on The Good Doctor Season 4 Episode 4, were cute together.

And Lifetime’s record for breaking down some barriers this holiday season continues. Ali Stroker is making history as a first as a disabled actress starring in this film. 

And one of the beautiful aspects of this is, while the film itself could’ve gone to anyone and didn’t have a specific disabled storyline — the movie also was conscientious of accessibility the entire time. 

If you’re not disabled, and you’re like me, you didn’t conscientiously think about the fact that Izzi is a disabled woman. She’s a quirky, bubbly, sweet lead of the film, and she just happened to be disabled. 

But in paying attention to the small details, in hindsight, it’s fantastic how the film adapted to Izzi rather than forcing her to adapt to the world around her and chronicling it in ad nauseam detail. If that makes sense. 

During the moment, you get caught up in the intimacy of Izzi and Matt’s time together, but upon reflection, you notice things like how often Matt brings himself down to Izzi’s level over time. Seating was available so Matt could speak to Izzi at eye-level, rather than always looking down on her.  

And while he did things like hold doors open for her or held her hand and escorted her down a ramp, they were just little things he did anyway as a perfect gentleman.

The issues that almost came between them had nothing to do with her disability. She never wondered if it was a barrier in Matt falling in love with her or battle with insecurities about that specifically and all that other crap.

I can imagine how refreshing, comforting, and good this felt to disabled viewers — how satisfying it is to have this type of representation on the screen with a story that’s just like anyone else’s and doesn’t focus exclusively on disability.

And it’s a love story. Everyone wants to see themselves in one of those in some way or another.

And it’s a love story. Everyone wants to see themselves in one of those in some way or another. 

It’s wonderful that viewers who aren’t disabled can see films like this, too, and how a movie normalizes seeing real people and their existence. I hope it continues.

Christmas Ever After was one of those films that had more balance to it in the romantic lead department. Sometimes the movies focus so much on the heroine, and her counterpart isn’t as developed beyond that.

We got a lot of Matt’s perspective. He was grappling with things as much as Izzi, in some ways, even more. Dare I even say it tipped more into his favor since, by the film’s conclusion, it felt as though we knew more about him and his family than Izzi.

Nevertheless, Izzi was awesome, and Ali Stroker has such an infectious, bright quality that lights up the screen. Izzi was a true romantic when it came to writing, but her love life, in reality, was a bit lackluster.

She was more comfortable living with the romance between the pages of her books. It’s something relatable and honest about that and her because of it.

Izzi felt safe with the confinements of her work, but it also meant she was falling into a rut with her writing. How could she continue writing about Desmond and Catrina when Desmond fell into the same pattern of perfection?

Matt looking exactly like the hero on the cover of her novel seemed so implausible, but the reason for the coincidence made up for it.

Matt’s late wife, Emily, was an artist who used him as inspiration, and she sold some of her work. It’s funny that with Izzi’s wild success, not a single person in Matt’s life told him about Desmond. Surely, someone he knew read those books or laid eyes on them somewhere.

It was prime for poking fun at him, and he was the type of guy who’d appreciate the jokes.

He and Izzi’s relationship started with some antagonism, ribbing, and banter, after all. Their time together amused to no end, and it also inspired Izzi.

No person is perfect. Perfect is boring, and through Matt, Izzi recognized that.

I also loved that it took helping Matt bowl for Izzi to recognize that the hero and heroine of her story could have a more balanced relationship. Izzi’s heroine didn’t always have to be the damsel in distress.

If Catrina was in any way like Izzi, then damsel in distress was far from the case. It also was rewarding that Izzi was the one who showed Matt how to do something rather than the other way around.

It was another conscientious take that differed from the normal thing you’d see in the few cases of wheel-chair users represented on TV. 

And not only did no one make a big deal out of it, but Matt was receptive to the help, and they had fun. It was a cute unofficial date, and it also reminded me of how much I miss bowling. 

But of all of Izzi and Matt’s rom-com moments, the funniest and cutest was the two of them trapped in her room as she wrote.

Matt looked like a bored little kid waiting for his mother to wrap up her shopping as he awaited someone to free them from the room a couple of hours later.

Honestly, it spoke to how drawn he was to Izzi that he stepped away from running the front desk of the lodge, my bad, the chalet, to change a doorknob in Izzi’s room in the first place.

They got a chance to talk a bit and open up and intimate with one another. Matt learned a bit about how and why Izzi got into writing romance, and the scene ended too soon. I would’ve listened to Izzi talk about herself for another ten minutes if it meant getting to know her better.

Even though Jennifer was there, making heart-eyes at Matt and feeling him up every chance she got, her intentions clear as a winter night, Izzi enamored him.

Find you a person to look at you the way Matt looked at Izzi. He nailed the fond, stolen looks (even if I still wished there was a bit more heat between them).

They were a cute enough couple that everyone jumped on board, even Jennifer. Bob, especially, was adorable. He went from pushing Matt to pay attention to Jennifer to seeing the sparks between Matt and his favorite guest, Izzi, and rooting for them too.

Bob wanted his son to be happy and find love again after the loss of his wife, and it’s what Matt and Kasey deserved.

And Kasey also wanted her father to find love again. The bond between Kasey and Izzi was a personal favorite. I loved how Izzi encouraged Kasey’s writing.

Kasey was a sweet girl, and she and Bob truly wanted the best for Matt and knew Izzi was it.

Without their encouragement, Matt would’ve overthought his relationship with Izzi and what it meant. He couldn’t get over the connection they shared thanks to his late wife’s work of him ending up on Izzi’s novels.

He didn’t know what it meant, and there was some fear about moving on from Emily despite her passing away three years before.

But he told his father that he didn’t feel anything for another woman since Emily until now. Izzi did things for him, and you can comprehend how hard it is to lose a person and develop feelings for someone else.

It has to make a person feel guilty, however irrational that is.

Matt and Izzi spent a perfect evening together as they drank cocoa and took a stroll, holding hands. They almost kissed too, but Matt had a lot to work out.

These movies aren’t complete without a fundamental misunderstanding, and strangely, Izzi saw Matt and Jennifer laughing and hugging each other and assumed the worst.

It didn’t matter that Jennifer was making eyes at Matt for a while, and he never returned those feelings. Izzi had witnessed the two with each other before, but this time, it affected her.

Frustratingly, she took it so far as to write an ending where her couple didn’t end up together, and she left before the Christmas festivities without saying goodbye.

It’s one thing if she felt some type of way about Matt and not knowing where she stood, but it was shocking that she would do that to Kasey.

Fortunately, Mila talked some sense into her, and Izzi returned. All it took was Izzi and Matt having a conversation and sharing their honest feelings about one another, and everything was fine.

As we saw during the conclusion, they were happily together a year later, and they must have worked out things like relocation.

You could see Izzi moving to Silver Lake because of her love for the small place. She doesn’t have to be in NYC to write and publish her novels.

I love that Izzi listened to Mila’s advice, which was really her own words, and she put herself out there and took a chance.

And thankfully, Matt wasn’t too discouraged by her bailing. Izzi fits in picture-perfect with Matt’s family, also, she gets even more inspiration for her book series with her real-life Desmond right beside her. 

Fireplace Musings:

  • At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s so refreshing that we’re getting stories, characters, romances, and stars of all types this Holiday season.
  • Sarah and her wife and son were the cutest.
  • Bob’s new job is perfect for him, and I’m happy Izzi thought of a way to incorporate him.
  • It’s interesting to watch the movies this year and see how they get around the COVID-restrictions while also maintaining the magic of the films as best as they can.

             I found out later that they used plexi-glass for the kiss, and you could tell some manipulation took place, which               kind of sucks, but I continue to applaud the creativity, innovation, and risks taken to bring us these stories. 

  • You cannot have the Ali Stroker star in a holiday film and not have her sing, so thank the heavens she got to belt out a few notes, and it was heavenly. Is it wrong that I wanted more?
  • This movie was delightful, and Stroker and Tomasso are great. I would love to see each of them star in more holiday movies in the future.
  • I’m so obsessed with Ali’s hair. Why is it so perfectly wavy like that? I love it.
  • Dearest, Tomasso, it’s the glorious beard for me; congratulations on your face, good Sir. It’s a really good face.

Over to you, Lifetime Fanatics.

What did you think of this one? Were you a fan of Izzi and Matt’s love story?

Hit that SHOW COMMENTS button and let me know what you think.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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