Valentine’s Day may be over in the real world, but it won’t reach the Denver, Colorado Dead Letter Office until Sunday February 21st at 9/8c, which is when the next “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” movie, “From the Heart,” airs on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.
At the end of the previous installment, “The Impossible Dream,” viewers were left with the feeling that love was in the air for Oliver (Eric Mabius) & Shane (Kristin Booth) – and Norman (Geoff Gustafson) & Rita (Crystal Lowe). But love rarely progresses smoothly, and that’s the case here for the four postal detectives who reunite lost or damaged mail with its intended recipients.
Be warned: this is the SSD movie in which Norman Dorman gets so angry that he resorts to violence. Specifically, he commits Teddy Bear-icide. What provokes him to such an act? Surprisingly, it’s the love of his life, Rita, and her desire to maintain her privacy. Smartly, their story is linked to a historical one which offers perspective on Rita’s choice. Regardless, I suspect this story element will prompt lots of fan discussions on Facebook. It may even be the series most controversial moment ever.
Oliver and Shane, meanwhile, seem to have plateaued, most likely due to the fact that he was waiting for his divorce to be finalized. He is, after all, a man of honor and wouldn’t actively pursue Shane until he was legally free. Shane, however, feels frustrated at the sloth-like pace at which their relationship is developing. She’s not even sure that it is developing.
Rita notes how wrong she is, saying, “You and Oliver have a thing. I can read the chemistry.”
Shane responds, “Chemistry does not a romance make, Rita.”
Rita laughs and points out that Shane is even starting to sound like Oliver, especially when she corrects her for ending a sentence with a preposition.
But Oliver’s intentions are clear to viewers. He even decides to ask Shane out in a uniquely Oliverian way. However, that leads to a comedy of postal errors that throws a major monkey wrench into their Valentine’s Day hopes – hopes that are confounded even further by their personal stubbornness.
In a way, the difficulties in Oliver’s and Shane’s relationship are reflected in the movie’s primary postal mystery, which involves two high school students, Ryan and Maddie, who are opposing members on a high school debating team. Maddie relies strictly on dry recitations of facts, while Ryan uses charm and “folksy storytelling” to make his case. They eventually discover that they each need to integrate the other’s strength into their own approach to create more fully formed arguments – and become more fully formed human beings.
The intellect of Oliver and emotion of Shane could also use more integration as they progress toward couplehood. “From the Heart” gives them the opportunity to do just that. It also introduces Shane to Oliver’s church life, planting some seeds for her possible spiritual development in future movies.
This all may sound very serious, but “From the Heart” is filled with the franchise’s requisite humor, too, including Rita receiving surprising news about her fourth-place finish as Miss United States Special Delivery; Oliver’s statement that not delivering a single postmarked letter would lead the country to anarchy; and Norman’s cousin deciding to move to Minnesota to join the Little Brothers of Perpetual Frost, “a monastic order dedicated to meditation and contemplative ice fishing.”
There’s also a sweet and funny Shane/Oliver moment in which he discovers the DLO fridge is out of Yoo-Hoo. Shane tells him that she has the Mailbox Grille keep a couple of emergency Yoo-Hoos in stock for just such an occasion, so they head over to share a drink. It’s one of those heartfelt human touches that demonstrate how much Shane truly cares for Oliver.
In another instance, Oliver references the ancient Greek’s four definitions of love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Not exactly common conversation in your average romantic comedy.
Finally, the character Ryan, during a high school debate, supports the funding of space exploration by quoting poet and aviator John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight,” which includes the lines, “I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth” and “touched the face of God.” Most Americans recall those lines from the Peggy Noonan-written speech that President Reagan delivered after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, but it was a pleasure to hear them again in a different setting that focuses on the nobility and promise of the words, not just the tragedy associated with them.
Williamson also has a gift for humanizing characters, even when they don’t appear on-screen much. I won’t say how, but a homeless man – who has no lines and who we only see briefly – plays a major role in the plot. And viewers come to feel for his plight because of the way another character talks about him, about the fact that he doesn’t have a friend or family member in the world who cares whether he lives or dies. It may even plant a seed for how viewers think of homeless people in the real world.
Along those same lines, there’s a directorial touch by Lynne Stopkewich that caught my eye, too. In the background of one of the debate club scenes, there’s a character sitting in a wheelchair. He has no lines and doesn’t do anything; he’s just there. But in making him a student with a disability, it’s subtly giving viewers the message that people in wheelchairs can fully participate in life and education. They possess just as much potential as anyone else. It’s a small but praiseworthy character choice.
Ultimately, “From the Heart” is also about second chances: the opportunities we get to make up for past mistakes and begin again. This idea applies in a big way to the Ryan/Maddie postal mystery, but also to the regular Postables. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they’re humble enough to admit their mistakes and forgive each other, absorbing what they’ve learned and moving forward with their lives.
Those underlying themes are what raise the “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” series above the usual fare and allow it to once again make a special delivery that stems “from the heart.” The movie airs on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries on Sunday Feb. 21st at 9/8C.
(Photo property of Hallmark Channel/Crown Media)
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