Let’s be honest; Lifetime has once again risen to the occasion with a jolly holiday film that you’ll want to watch over and over again.
And, of course, Under the Christmas Tree just so happens to be their first lesbian-centric Christmas movie, too.
With dynamic leads, charismatic supporting characters, and a romance that made you squeal in delight, Under the Christmas Tree was a damn near perfect film destined to become a classic for the network.
It’s certainly on my personal list of favorites that I’ll look forward to in the upcoming years.
Lifetime pledged to make the yuletide gay, in addition to all the other diverse movies they’ve been producing, and it’s so refreshing to have various forms of representation that reflect the network’s broad audience.
Not only did they deliver a sweet sapphic romance, but they did it effortlessly, the groundbreaking nature of it so understated in the best of ways. Alma and Charlie’s romance comprised of the same formula that makes these endearing films work in the first place, the only distinguishing factor for theirs being that it was a queer love story.
And by doing that and delivering the movie in such a way, it allowed viewers to fall in love with their story as they would any other romance — because it is like any other romance.
A happy, sappy, sweet romance devoid of tragedy porn is all an entire community ever wanted in the first place.
To say Charlie had Alma at hello would be an understatement. Hell, she had the woman before hello, and nothing was cuter than Alma stuttering over her words, her instant attraction so transparent the entire galaxy could see it.
It was as precious as it was most delightfully embarrassing, and it’s no wonder Marie was firmly on the Charlie +Alma= Chalma Agenda for the remainder of the movie. Same, madam.
You could understand why Alma was tongue-tied since Charlie was serving all that romantic lead goodness on sight, oozing effortlessly cool and confident, and as the kiddies say, B.D.E., and she had all the freaking hair goals, too. Hell, I had a girl crush on Charlie!
Their chemistry crackled from the moment they locked eyes and didn’t let up until the credits rolled.
I could watch an entire series starring Elise Bauman and Tattiawna Jones. Since half of the battle of pulling off a perfect Christmas romance is the chemistry between the leads, the casting director deserves all the hot cocoa and Christmas cookies for gifting us with these two women.
Alma was a little awkward, neurotic, and obsessed with Christmas and traditions. She managed to be endearingly human and flawed while always being a character worth rooting for, and Charlie balanced her out in all the right ways.
They fit together like a perfect puzzle piece, and through her time with Charlie, we got to see a fun, lighter side of Alma. She let loose a bit more, but she never had to compromise all of her quirks and who she was, and Charlie adored her for them.
Charlie was equally as smitten with Alma, and the flirty nature of their dynamic typically included Charlie making the moves and her feelings known.
Charlie fell hard and fast, and instead of going the cliche route where she fought it as much as she could, she became more vulnerable with each passing second.
You knew that despite Charlie’s background of not planting roots, ironic given her career as an arborist, she realized early on that Alma was someone worth planting her feet firmly on solid ground.
Of course, their conflict came in the form of that darn majestic tree.
Charlie’s tree whispering was utterly fascinating, and it was captivating when she could run down the history of a tree by using all of her senses and paying attention to the details.
But after Alma not only declined to give the tree over to Charlie and Rohan, but she frequently explained why it was invaluable for her, there is no way Charlie and Rohan should’ve kept pushing that hard.
Yes, the tree was gorgeous and rich with history, but there were plenty of other trees Charlie could’ve discovered in all the time she attempted to wear Alma down and change her mind.
Thankfully, the majority of the time, Charlie was using the tree situation as a reason to simply be around Alma more because she liked her so much.
Otherwise, the idea of an outsider duo relentlessly pursuing something that a family and community cherished so much would be offputting.
From the time spent at Noelle’s with Marie to Charlie helping Alma assemble nutcrackers and the two competing in that awesome gingerbread contest, it was a joy to watch Charlie fall more in love, not only with Alma but the small-town Maine community.
She went for a tree and found something better, a sense of community, belonging, and a family. It was beautiful to watch that unfold.
Because of that, it made Charlie’s conflict one where you sympathized with her even if you disagreed with the job she had to do.
She was insistent initially, but it evolved into something else entirely, and you understood how she fell in love with her surroundings and avoided Soral at every turn. The idea of causing any harm or hurt to Alma was unthinkable for Charlie.
In fact, causing Alma harm hurt her.
The underhandedness Soral expected sucked, and it would’ve been awful if they managed to use Izzy and Michael’s initial agreement as a way to undermine Alma and take her favorite tree away from her.
She was already struggling with the new role she was taking on and asserting herself as the new C.E.O. for their family company. I appreciated Alma’s journey in taking a stance for their company. She had to find her path and method of running it and trust her instincts while demanding others do the same.
Her traditional standpoint regarding the catalog and their little personal details were things she held dear and felt distinguished them from other companies. The consultant’s vision for the family business didn’t align with what Alma had in store for the future.
A woman who named her beloved chickens after characters she loved and served as her gay awakening from her favorite Christmas classics isn’t someone who wants flashy, commercialized versions of anything, you know? She’s a unique woman with a specific vision.
After Alma spent half of the movie resisting the changes, it was gratifying when she took a stand and announced that while she was open to the online expansion and modifications, she didn’t want to relocate to Arizona or dilute their identity as a brand.
In that sense, the movie excelled at having both Alma and Charlie grappling with conflicts and personal arcs outside of their relationship with one another, and it made the film feel well-rounded as a result.
It’s something that even expanded to the supporting characters in lovely ways, too. Rohan had a subtle but invaluable arc about following his dreams and finding his passion aligned well with Marie.
She was an inspiration to him as this woman who gave up a job that didn’t fulfill her to open up a divine patisserie and make a name for herself.
It’s too bad we viewers couldn’t get on the action tasting all of her delectable treats. But Rohan and Marie’s mutual passion for baking was adorable, and you hoped Rohan’s path would lead him to do what he wanted most rather than this job he didn’t enjoy working under her mother’s control.
Shawn Ahmed was a great scene-stealer, and Ricki Lake is a celestial queen who needs to be in all of the things, all the time, for eternity.
Seriously, some of this girl’s fondest memories are times spent watching Ricki Lake in her talk show, shows, or movies, and her gracing everyone with her presence like a benevolent auntie throughout this film was one of many highlights.
Enrico Colantoni is the Canadian treasure of whom we’ll never get enough of, and he’s mastered the loving dad role. For a secondary character in a charming Christmas film, he managed to have some meaningful moments with both Alma and Charlie.
The piano playing with Charlie was one of the best scenes of the movie, and when his eyes misted as he recalled the fond memories playing music brought him and how much he missed it, you couldn’t help but get emotional along with him.
And there’s nothing like a pep talk with the perfect dad to remind a person of the essential things in life. He prompted Alma to trust her gut and go after what she desired.
It applied to both her intentions with their store and Charlie. After overhearing that conversation Charlie and Soral had, Alma wouldn’t have been as receptive to risking it all for this woman she had feelings for or extending grace to Charlie after that misunderstanding.
The conflict between the two was short-lived and handled well. It wasn’t a contrived type of drama. Charlie cleared up the conversation and Soral’s intentions easily, and Alma didn’t hold a ridiculous grudge or need too much convincing that she jumped to the wrong conclusion.
Instead, Alma’s reluctance to continue something with someone if it would be a long-distance relationship felt reasonable and grounded. Sure, we were all screaming at them to take the risk for our own gratification, but in reality, you understood that stance.
They had started something profound and quickly. It was pretty much love at first sight. You could count the times they each fell a little more in love with the other with their every interaction.
Charlie was charmed by Alma’s quirkiness, the love she had for Christmas and her job, and the memories with that tree. She thought her competitive spirit during that gingerbread competition was adorable.
Alma appreciated Charlie’s romantic nature. Their first date was absolutely charming even though Charlie burnt the meal. And it was also where the direction and cinematography shined the most.
With the lighting and shots, the intimacy of that date drew you in and gave the vibe that the world disappeared around these two, and then it eased right into their perfect first kiss.
And the artful shots of the outside the bakery as they parted ways were the best of the film.
It also translated well when Charlie had her one-on-one time with Alma’s dad, and it contributed to the emotions the scene conveyed.
Charlie’s effortless ability to fit right in with Marie and Alma’s parents are other moments when Alma’s feelings for Charlie came through. You can’t ask for anything better when you find love with another person, and they care about your loved ones as much as you do and vice versa.
Even Charlie’s passion for trees in that quiet, spellbinding moment in the air revealed so much about where Alma stood without her ever having to say it.
And while long-distance isn’t impossible, there was something electric about their chemistry and how proximity intensified it that wouldn’t have been captured if Charlie was away.
The best option was for Charlie to stay, and the beauty in her decision is that it was rooted in more than her love for Alma and pursuing it further.
She had a million other reasons to take a job in Camden, still doing what she loved and setting down roots.
She got Alma and an instant family and community out of it, which was this lovely bonus for this woman who needed that, too. It couldn’t have had a better result. Alma kept her tree and got to pursue the family business as she hoped, and she found love with Charlie, who found a family with Alma and her circle.
I’m in love with this movie and Alma and Charlie’s love, how about you? Sound off below, TV Fanatics!
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.
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