Lifetime's conscientious and diverse Christmas films are continuously a gift that keeps on giving.
Not only does the network continue to provide content that reaches its equally diverse audience, making them feel seen during the holiday season, but they also give us a plethora of reunions and collaborations that are too good to be true.
The best part of A Christmas Spark, executive produced by Toni Braxton, was the romantic leads themselves, eternally stunning and vibrant Jane Seymour and an unbelievably charismatic Joe Lando. Yes, we got a Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman reunion when these two besties joined forces for this heartwarming flick.
There is nothing I love more than a later-in-life romance. They're among the best of the genre, yet criminally unexplored territory rarely traversed, particularly at the forefront.
And for the life of me, I don't understand why. Can you think of anything more beautiful, real, hopeful, and a great reflection of life and the journey of it than people over the age of 40 finding love again?
For some reason, the romance genre likes to act as if love, romance, and sex are reserved for the teen to 30-year-old crowds, and beyond that people stop being lively, vibrant, sexy, romantic, fully-realized human beings with desires, needs, and many things still left to learn.
When the reality is that we spend our entire time on this earth trying to figure life out, no one has anything figured out completely, regardless of their age. We still have plenty of lessons to learn and opportunities to seize.
It was on display while watching Molly, a widowed mom and grandmother who had to learn how to live again and embrace changes and new things.
Molly didn't know what to do with herself after her husband died. They had this lovely little life together, and his death disrupted everything, leaving her in this state of the unknown and not knowing what else life had in store for her.
With her husband gone, it was evident she poured more energy into her daughter. Unfortunately, Krysten lived in another state with her own family, leaving Molly in the cold a bit.
Christmas was everything for Molly, and my heart broke when Krysten told her that she and her family wouldn't be making it to Molly for the holiday.
Initially, it felt like they'd bail altogether, and she wouldn't get the opportunity to spend the holiday with them. However, Krysten wasn't implying it'd be a family-less holiday.
Instead, she invited Molly to New Hampshire, a break from tradition, the type of change that seemed to push Molly out of her comfort zone, but the exact thing she needed and a gift in disguise. New Hampshire was the first step toward opening Molly's world and perspective. She found family, community, adventure, and love there.
So far, aside from the commendable diversity in what the network is offering, the latest Christmas films this season feel tailor-made to the times that we live in, staying authentic to people's experiences.
Grief and loss are not unfamiliar themes for the genre, but it feels markedly different two-years post a fatal global pandemic. While last season's slate was about simply trying to get Christmas films out there at all while navigating filming with restrictions, giving us saccharine escapism as possible, it's different this time.
This year, the holiday films have settled into the filming protocols behind the scenes, and the stories are about giving us that realism while still maintaining the feel-good magic of the season.
Grief has been so prominent in the films. We've seen it in The Reindeer Games Homecoming, a bit in A Christmas Country Harmony, among others, so far this season. But it's not in a depressing way that makes a film difficult to watch, but in a realistic, honest manner that is likely resonates with many viewers.
We've collectively gone through this massive trauma. We have spent the past couple of years crawling from beneath it and creating a new normal, learning to live with what we've experienced while also recognizing what we endured and the losses.
It's not lost that Molly lost her husband two years ago. And she's been trying to figure out who she is and what her life looks like ever since.
Within the time frame, an overwhelming volume of individuals have experienced something similar, so her journey and obstacles feel relatable.
It's fresh enough to have a firm grip on her still while there's enough time for Molly to find happiness and a sense of normalcy amid her grief without dwelling on it or allowing it to consume her fully.
And I genuinely appreciate how films like A Christmas Spark have managed to keep the magic, embody all of what this time of the year can mean, and feel prescient while still addressing the pain and heartache.
The film catches up to our collective headspace of craving positivity while honoring the past.
Much of what Molly had to learn focused on honoring her past and the life she lived with her husband while still moving forward, being present, and looking to the future.
It wasn't that she needed to know that she could find happiness again, but more so that she had to realize it's okay to experience it again without it meaning that she was losing parts of her life with her husband, forgetting, or dishonoring him.
And there was no perfect person to see that in her and push her in the ways necessary than Hank.
It doesn't even need to be said that Jane Seymour and Joe Lando's chemistry is crackling and outrageously fantastic. They're like magnets drawn together; they just click.
And when they're onscreen together, you get lost in them and forget about everyone and everything else. It's a testament to how long they've known each other and their previous experience working together that they pull this off effortlessly.
Their genuine friendship shone through in every scene, especially the fun banter between the pair.
Hank was sexy, funny, and charming, exactly what the doctor ordered for Molly. He was so unabashedly smitten and attracted to her from the second he laid eyes on her, and he didn't hold back on that attraction.
Their meet-cute at the airport over the taffy was adorable, and you could tell he found her feisty and irresistible from then on. And Molly was.
More than anything, seeing her let her hair down and embrace spontaneity when she was around him was rewarding. Hank tapped into something in Molly that she hadn't let out in some time, bringing out that eternally youthful quality to her that lightened up the film and allowed us to get to know Molly on a deeper level, too.
One can appreciate that Hank wasn't solely this mysterious bad boy trope.
While he most definitely delivered on the silver fox "Zaddy" energy, ahem. He brought so much more to the table, and when he opened up about losing his wife at a young age, it added more dimension to his character and made him more rounded, but it also showed how great a fit he would be for Molly.
Hank wasn't a stranger to grieving either. And while he was at a different stage of it, enough not to run away when he saw the good thing coming his way with Molly and encouraged her to take this leap of faith with him in the next chapter of their lives, it was evident he had some difficulties to work through as well.
Before Molly, it didn't seem like he would find someone he wanted to settle down with again. The Christmas Cookies chatted about his being some form of a silver-fox playboy.
And his reservations about Christmas were an issue for him, too. He handled his grief in the opposite way of Molly, spending years of his life traveling the world and not laying down any roots, seemingly distracting himself with marvelous wonders and adventures.
It's what made him and Molly such a great pairing. They balanced each other beautifully and instantaneously, too.
You could see the light Molly brought to Hank's world and how her love of Christmas and positive spirit were infectious. She radiated this warm glow and light that had him drawn to her, and once he experienced it, he didn't want to go without it again.
It didn't take the full month for Hank to fall for Molly and want her to be part of his life forever. He was a goner from the first conversation.
For all the jokes about Hank being a "bad influence," Hank lit a spark in Molly, brought her out of her shell, and helped her find herself again. He challenged her, and she rose to it at every turn.
She remembered how to be lively, fun, giggly, and free when she was with him. He made her happy, and it was a beautiful sight to behold.
The bike rides were among the best and most entertaining scenes. Molly's first motorcycle trip was hilarious, especially when she got a ticket for driving it without a license.
And her next bout on it with her wearing that leather jacket, gloves, and the aviators was badass. She looked like a hot biker chick, and Hank appreciated every single bit of it, as he should've. Again, Seymour is so freaking gorgeous. She rocked the hell out of that biker chick look.
She also lit up working on that play. She fell back into that type of role easily, and it brought her so much joy that, hopefully, she'll continue to do more things like that in the future. She was cool under pressure and made it a rousing success. And it turned out great!
Krysten live-streaming it was a smart way to recuperate some of their costs. And the story Hank came up with was cute. The singing and performances were fun, too.
What was refreshing was how Molly's entire trip to New Hampshire didn't have to revolve around her family completely. Although, despite a few meaningful conversations with her daughter and that special tree-dressing scene, her family fell into the background a bit.
She had tiny moments with Davina, and you could tell how much she loved her daughter and granddaughter. Krysten's husband, Steve, didn't have much presence during the film because there wasn't much for him to do or contribute. And Krysten's taffy storline was cute but simple.
But once Molly got into the play, she could split her time between that and her romance with Hank.
The tree-dressing scene was such a pivotal point for both characters. For Hank, he got to experience the happiness of the holidays again for the first time in years. You could see how meaningful it was for him to get included in this family.
It touched him so much when Davina made a stocking for him, and both Krysten and Molly even allowing him to retrieve the star that had such sentimental value to them after the loss of their father/husband spoke volumes.
Molly spent a great deal of time trying to ensure that she had enough room in her heart and her life for loving these two men, the one she lost and this new one she found.
Entrusting Hank with that start felt like a massive step for her and a mark of her slowly letting go a bit, so when it fell, it was crushing.
The moment it shattered, it felt like the happy bubble Molly and Hank were in did as well, and there was concern that they wouldn't be able to get past that anytime soon.
To Molly's credit, she didn't snap at him or make him feel terrible about the incident, but it still lingered, putting a wedge between them for a bit. But her refusal to open her heart and mind to his offer to travel the world with him dampened what they had until Molly came to her senses.
From the second the star broke, thankfully, in big enough chunks, I eagerly awaited the moment when the worldly, sentimental Hank would regift it to Molly pieced together, ordained in gold.
Kintsugi is a suitable practice for this story, but then, its very concept is a perfect philosophy for life. Nothing is ever really broken or beyond repair.
Just because something broke or came apart doesn't mean it can't be pieced together or rebuilt, sometimes becoming more beautiful than how it started.
It also speaks to change, how beautiful it can be, and how welcomed it is. Like Molly, the star wasn't broken beyond repair, just as she wasn't after her husband died.
And it was fitting that Hank got his hands on it, adding his touches. Molly clung to traditions and what was old and familiar to her. Hank was all about things being fresh and new.
Hank married tradition with change when he salvaged that star that was still this big piece of Molly's husband and made it whole again with his own touches. It was such a thoughtful and adequate gesture for their situation.
It served as a metaphor for so many things.
A Christmas Spark delivered the content we've craved with this "Seasoned romance" as what seems to be the term for the genre these days. Finally, it's what we desperately needed and deserved, and hopefully, this is only the first of many to come.
It was gratifying to witness a "woman of a certain age" like Molly rediscover herself and her new passions and get a second chance at finding love again with Hank.
It marked a first and refreshing turn for the genre of Christmas films, and hopefully, it won't be the last. It's definitely one worth rewatching again and again.
I mean, it's Jane freaking Seymour, a gem, icon, and queen, and Joe Lando was so dashing at every turn. No one would complain if they want to reunite for us again next season with a whole new script!
Over to you Lifetime Christmas Fanatics.
How did you guys feel about A Christmas Spark? Are you also a sucker for a good later-in-life second chance at finding romance love story? Are you a Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman fan who got excited about this reunion? Sound off below!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is an insomniac who spends late nights and early mornings binge-watching way too many shows and binge-drinking way too much tea. Her eclectic taste makes her an unpredictable viewer with an appreciation for complex characters, diverse representation, dynamic duos, compelling stories, and guilty pleasures. You'll definitely find her obsessively live-tweeting, waxing poetic, and chatting up fellow Fanatics and readers. Follow her on X.