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Hotshot New York City Lawyer Ellen (Alison Sweeney) receives a letter that her late grandmother wanted to be delivered to a man in a sleepy town in Maine. Determined to fulfil her grandmother’s wish Ellen travels to Maine and finds a different way of life, where she learns more about her grandmother’s youth, and more about herself in the process.

Given that this is a Hallmark romance, if you don’t guess the outcome within the first 20 minutes, then I can only assume that you have never seen any romance in your life before! Seriously the ending is completely obviously almost from the beginning, but you know what? It doesn’t detract from the charm of this lovely story.

It’s your typical fish-out-of-water story, although ironically this fish falls into the bay in the first few minutes of the film, and is rescued by handsome local Roy Cumberland (Marc Blucas).

Naturally she and Roy keep running into each other and there is an undeniable attraction, but she has her own boyfriend, a successful young man with political ambitions – not to mention her pushy mother – waiting for her back home. Which way of life will Ellen choose?

What sets this story higher than others of a similar genre is a very likeable cast – I loved Alison Sweeney and Marc Blucas, and I also liked the rest of the locals in Maine (particularly Samantha Ferris as the feisty owner of the inn where Ellen stays during her vacation). Shirley Jones pops up as Alison’s late grandmother – don’t worry this is not a supernatural element, just imagined conversations that Ellen has with her from time to time. The scenery was also gorgeous and quite made me want to get away to the countryside and back to nature for a while.

If you’re not into romantic comedy-dramas, then this film is not for you! But if you want something to make you smile, with a sweet storyline, then give it a whirl, you might be surprised how much you enjoy this one.

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Kristoffer Tabori (as K T Donaldson)

Writers: Mary Simses (novel), Melissa Salmons

Main cast: Alison Sweeney, Marc Blucas, Shirley Jones, Samantha Ferris

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Based on the novel of the same name by Karen Joy Fowler, this film is about six Californians – five women and one man – who start a book club to discuss Jane Austen’s novels.  The various members are facing challenges in their lives, and the club and the books themselves prove therapeutic in helping them to deal with their own problems.

I haven’t read the book that the film was adapted from, but I’m intending to make it the very next one on my pile, because I loved this gem of a movie.  It had some very funny moments, but mostly it was sweet, utterly charming and moving.  The cast had terrific chemistry, and the lifelong friendship between dog-loving control freak Jocelyn (Maria Bello) and recently separated Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) was completely believeable.  The remaining members of the cast – Maggie Grace as Sylvia’s daughter daredevil daughter Allegra, Kathy Baker as the matriarchal six-time divorcee Bernadette, Emily Blunt as the buttoned up and discontented French teacher Prudie, and Hugh Dancy as the absolutely adorable Grigg – all fitted perfectly into their roles, and the main cast is rounded out by Jimmy Smits, as Sylvia’s philandering husband Daniel, Marc Blucas as Prudie’s insensitive husband Dean (although I thought Dean was a more likeable character than Prudie!), and Kevin Zegers as a student who Prudie falls for.  Jimmy Smits was actually my main reason for wanting to see this film, as I think he is rather lovely, but I was charmed by the whole cast, and Hugh Dancy has a new fan!

I would heartily recommend this film, whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen (you do not need to have read the novels to watch this film) – it’s a definite keeper for me, and one I shall be watching again.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Robin Swicord

Producers: Marshall Rose, John Calley, Julie Lynn, Diana Napper, Jonathan McCoy, Lisa Medwid, Kelly Thomas

Writers: Karen Joy Fowler (book), Robin Swicord

Main cast: Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Emily Blunt, Hugh Dancy, Jimmy Smits, Kevin Zegers, Marc Blucas

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Click here for my review of the novel.

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