Just when you thought Philly’s Christmas movie tradition could get no richer than “A Royal Christmas,” aka Princess Hoagiemouth, Hallmark added a new title to the canon: “A Gift to Remember.”
The movie debuted this year. It’s totally about Philadelphia. The main character lives in … Northern Liberties! She’s a fan of cycling. One day, while biking — no bike lane, so that part’s authentic — she crashes into a dreamy stranger, knocking him into a coma. Could romance ensue? Spoiler alert: It ensues.
Look closer and you’ll see this movie isn’t afraid to address topics like urbanism, gentrification and multimodalism. Look even closer and you’ll see this movie addresses nothing. That is because this is a Hallmark movie and by divine right is required to feature 80 minutes of furtive stares and interrupted kisses. Nothing more.
I watched the whole thing, survived and wrote a very detailed recap below. You can catch a replay of the movie Dec. 20 at 4 p.m. and probably a dozen other times before Christmas. Just be sure to pour an extra glass of eggnog with industrial strength whiskey, if you dare watch. Matter of fact, you might even need one for this recap. Here we go….
The movie begins with a shot of City Hall. Our City Hall. Not some cheap town square with a clock tower. And the next shot is even better: It’s of Macy’s Christmas Light Show. The real thing! Authentic Philly!
Then there’s a generic carousel in a random Christmas village that is not LOVE Park or Dilworth Park.
We meet our heroine, Darcy. She rolls into work at Chaucer’s bookstore, and co-worker Katherine asks how her date with some guy named Oliver went. “If there was anything worth reporting,” Darcy says, “I would have called.”
Yikes. He probably took her to Ladder 15.
We learn of the first conflict. Another indie bookstore, Books Books Books, is copying its Christmas tradition. But Chaucer’s shouldn’t worry because that’s the worst name for a bookstore of all time.
Darcy talks more about the date. Oliver, like a filthy peasant, couldn’t even quote Charles Dickens. She isn’t all about humans anyway. She says she has a store full of options for adventure. Books > humans.
But wait! A man with a golden doodle (or is it a labradoodle?) walks in front of the store window. He’s wearing a hoodie, standard dress of a Philadelphian. ?
After work, Darcy goes to a restaurant run by a guy named Luigi. His accent changes with every sentence. If you peek into the far corner of the screen, you’ll see a banner on a lightpost with the phrase — wait for it — “Little Italy.” I guess the New York Times was right.
The lone person of color we’ll see in this movie — one more than usual for a Hallmark Christmas movie! — appears. She’s Ms. Henley, Darcy’s landlord, and she’s decorating a Christmas tree in the foyer and listening to Darcy talk about Books, Books, Books infringing on her store’s turf. “Well they’re foolish to try,” Ms. Henley says. “Chaucer’s is a Philadelphia tradition.”
Darcy says nothing. Instead, she takes a big bite out of a gingerbread man cookie — with force. She must be ready to show that other book store what’s what.
Back at the bookstore, owner Terrence says he’s moving to California, leaving like so many Philadelphians do. Darcy is immediately concerned about gentrifiers: “Someone will turn this into a yoga studio so fast. Or worse than a yoga studio, it’ll be like the third craft micro brewery on the street. Or worse, they’ll tear it down and turn it into luxury condos.”
Darcy apparently forgot there’s no such thing as too much beer in this city.
Darcy says Katherine should take over Terrence’s senior manager role so a developer won’t come in and wreak havoc. Katherine can’t. She says she’s done with grad school soon and wants to put her journalism degree to use.
(Good luck with that, Kath.)
The guy is back walking by the window with his dog. He’s wearing a gray hoodie this time, with a blue vest over it. Getting fancy. ?
Another City Hall shot! Focused on the Billy Penn statue with a Christmas tree in the foreground.
We finally see where Window Guy lives, and it looks like new construction. A little wider than the typical boxy look, but it’s certainly no rowhome. It kinda looks like the Ice House in Fishtown.
Window Guy is reading a book called Nothing to Dismay. The scene switches, and we see Darcy is, too. Whoever wrote it has never watched “A Gift to Remember.”
Next morning, Darcy bikes to work and is almost there, passing by Luigi’s in Little Italy. Later, a truck pulls out of a side street and nearly hits her. Yes, this is Philadelphia. She has to swerve. In the crosswalk, Window Guy is walking his dog, and she knocks him out cold.
A cop car with a Philadelphia Police logo swoops in. They’re taking Window Guy to Einstein Hospital in Olney. Whoever wrote this used the same busted map as the person who mapped Rocky’s run. Darcy notes that’s a few miles away but will walk with her dog, anyway. She’s a real urbanist. Also, Window Guy’s cell phone and wallet float down the sewer with melted snow — such an obvious problem — so there’s no way to learn his name.
We’re only 15 minutes in.
Somehow the hospital staff knows the dog’s name is Bailey.
Luigi calls the dog something in Italian that I swear isn’t Italian. He knows somebody who works at a bicycle shop and will take it in for Darcy because of Christmas spirit. That’s how you do things in Little Italy Philadelphia!
Ms. Henley is PISSED Bailey the dog is in her apartment building. This isn’t one of those fancy new construction condos, Darcy. Henley explains she once had a tenant who raised ferrets: “It was a situation.”
I’m bored and Googling. Turns out the movie is based on a book by the same title. That book is set in New York. So Hallmark chose Philadelphia over New York for no reason. The description of the movie on the Hallmark Channel’s website name-drops Manhattan; no mention of Philly.
How does that make you feel, NYC? Y’all may have stolen the U.N. headquarters from us, but it looks like we just won the war.
Darcy goes with Katherine into Window Guy’s new construction home to see if they can find out who he is. A business card says William A. Anderson, and he’s in PR. There’s a framed picture of a girlfriend. Guy’s already in love. Movie over, right?
Window Guy has lots of cashmere in the closet and tokens of his world travels. Katherine notes of Darcy, “You don’t even get on the train to Manhattan.” Yeah no kidding she doesn’t, Katherine. Who would want to visit a city that can’t even be the location for the movie version of “A Gift to Remember?”
Back at Einstein Hospital, Window Guy wakes up, and because this movie must go on for another 56 minutes, he can’t remember his name. Retrograde amnesia. The usual.
Darcy says his name could be William A. Anderson “I keep thinking of the name Aiden,” Window Guy responds. That’s probably right. Much more millennial.
He asks Darcy what she does. Her reply? “I work at a bookstore in Northern Liberties.”
Now it all makes sense! His new construction home is in No Libs, too. He’s totally been staring at the bookstore because he wants to redevelop it. The only way this movie can end is at a Northern Liberties Neighbors Association meeting with him requesting a zoning variance and a dozen people lined up to complain about parking.
Delaware River shot. The entire skyline, from Camden. Sort of recent because there’s Comcast I, but no Comcast II construction.
Luigi has the bike fixed, ready to go, and Darcy is with her landlord again because doesn’t everyone hang out with their landlords on a regular basis? The landlord speaks Luigi’s garbled Italian, too. They’re going to fall in love. ?
Shot of City Hall from the Parkway.
Window Guy is in the hospital and he’s sketching a house on a piece of paper. It looks like new construction. Developer!
For some reason, Darcy and the landlord are back at Window Guy’s house again. This is the third time. They find two tickets to the The Nutcracker by the Pennsylvania Ballet. Darcy, like an idiot, thinks The Nutcracker is lame. Landlord Ms. Henley takes another dig at millennials and then says, “this is the gift of culture.”
They open a box-shaped gift. It’s an engagement ring. Shit.
View of City Hall from the Parkway. Same one as a few minutes ago. Come on, Hallmark.
Window Guy, to Darcy back in the hospital, “I’m going stir crazy in here.” Try watching this movie.
Darcy shows Window Guy the engagement ring. He says he might remember. Rut-roh.
They decide to to for a walk and next thing we know they’re at the Christmas Village. That would be about six miles from Einstein Hospital. Imagine just waking up from a coma and a couple days later you’re finally starting to possibly remember some details about your life, and then choosing to venture toward a disorienting maze of scarves and gourmet cheeses.
The landlord looks closer at the photo of Window Guy’s girlfriend/fiance. She decides it’s from outside a theater in New York and the woman is a dancer. Maybe Darcy will get on that train to Manhattan.
Or wait, now they’re talking about wondering why the ballet dancer hasn’t called to check in or visit the house knowing he’s gone. Could Window Guy be a long-distance commuter? Is he trying to convince his girlfriend to move from New York City to Philadelphia because of lower rents and real estate prices?
Conversation between Window Guy and Darcy about Jane Austen novels, Darcy’s late parents, how her bookstore family is her new family, yada yada yada.
I’m thinking about literally severing my cable cord.
Darcy is on her computer buying tickets from 30th Street Station to Penn Station. Direct? That’s Amtrak and can get pricey. She should really think about taking NJ Transit the next time and using her layover in Trenton to stop for a McFlurry.
Window Guy sketches more drawings of a house. Developer, developer, developer. A nurse says it’s time to go for a walk along the waterfront. He says he’d rather go to Chaucer’s bookstore. Neither is near Einstein, but OK.
Meanwhile, Darcy is up in New York and clearly not going to be at Chaucer’s. The receptionist at the ballet company does not take kindly to her, but Darcy says she took the train all the way up from Philadelphia and finally the receptionist helps. The woman in Window Guy’s picture is Melanie Porter. Darcy leaves her a voicemail explaining how she knocked him out and he doesn’t remember anything.
The first sign of real love: The stares are no longer furtive. They are deep. “Darcy you amaze me,” Window Guys says. “I wish I had your tenacity.” So deep. ?
The doctors give Window Guy the all-clear to leave the hospital. He has no family and no memory and no wallet.
Back at the bland No Libs new construction house with no Christmas decorations, he says, “It looks familiar but it just doesn’t really feel like home.” Why? “I know I love Christmas.”
Same exact shot of the Philly skyline from Camden. At least they separated these views by a few minutes.
Window Guy tells Darcy how good it feels to have her fighting for him. She responds awkwardly by saying, “great sweater.” The hoodie is gone.
All of a sudden Window Guy remembers he’s an art teacher. He can see his desk and his entire class. Buoyed by this revelation and a college memory from Ohio State, they dance.
And here comes an interrupted kiss. A man walks in. It’s Window Guy’s friend.
The reveal! The friend is William Anderson. He owns the house. Window Guy is Aiden Harris, who’s visiting from … Akron, Ohio. He took a ceramics class in high school with LeBron James. Also: William is kinda pissed they decorated his apartment for Christmas.
William suggests Window Guy call his dad. But Window Guy can’t remember the number because freaking amnesia. There’s a landline joke. LOL Millennials.
Darcy says, “go back to your life in Ohio and find out who you are. No matter what I’m your friend and always will be.” She goes in for a kiss. Of course it’s interrupted. Dad is on the phone for Window Guy to relay him the message this movie needs to go on for another 10 minutes.
New Philly shot, from Camden but at night.
The landlord tells Darcy she needs to step it up and go after Window Guy. Darcy says how her mantra, “the less you ask for the less you have to lose,” has changed.
For Christmas I will ask for no more Hallmark movies about Philadelphia.
Window Guy decides he needs to pay back Darcy. He discusses an idea with No Libs friend, who is the agent for the book they’ve both been reading.
Time for the stretch run, guys. We can do this.
Back to Philly. Yep, the landlord Ms. Henley is taking Luigi to The Nutcracker. Henley takes a cheap shot at millennials once again: “I know people don’t dress up to go to the ballet anymore.” Darcy, who’s become manager of Chaucer’s after pledging she would burn Books, Books, Books to the ground, prepares for a party.
Anthony Cleaver Parks, the famous author, arrives with No Libs friend William Anderson. Where is Window Guy??????
Bailey the dog meanders into the bookstore. He plops down in front of Darcy. Could it be?! It could be. Here’s Window Guy, and his whole family is with him. This is a fairly serious gesture for a first date. Where the hell is that Oliver guy?
A scenery shot that is definitely not Philadelphia. I think Hallmark got more bored with this movie than even I have.
They’re about to kiss for real this time, and “Grownup Christmas List” starts to play. She asks him if he lives around here. “Currently I’m in Ohio,” he says. “But I’m considering a move.”
And so it came to pass: The long-awaited answer on how to get more millennials to move to and stay in Philly is knock them out cold, give them amnesia and let them crash at a rich friend’s place in Northern Liberties while seducing them with long walks to Christmas Village.