As a longtime romance girlie, I love love love a cheesy Hallmark Channel romance, and their Christmas ones are the best: they inject holiday spirit into my veins and require absolutely no critical thinking whatsoever. That’s what I want to be doing all holiday season. No thinking, just vibes.
Unfortunately, us sapphics have largely been missing from the Hallmark holiday romance conversation. Every year, straight people get dozens of movies in which generic looking women in fabulous coats head to small towns to fall in love with grumpy lumberjacks. And while I love it, every year I can’t help but think “when’s it going to be our turn?” This year, Hallmark finally gave us their first lesbian Christmas romance movie, Friends & Family Christmas. It’s everything I love about the genre, and there were no bearded men in flannel trying to kiss anyone under the mistletoe.
When Happiest Season was announced, I was so fucking excited that we were finally getting a sapphic holiday romance. And I love that movie. But it’s not really the “light Christmas romcom” that I was hoping for. Not every lesbian movie has to have the main conflict revolve around coming out or being closeted! Why couldn’t it be like, they had to fight against the evil developers who wanted to buy Harper’s family home and turn it into an Airbnb?
Friends & Family Christmas is everything that those of us who want an easy, cheesy Christmas romcom could ask for. Low stakes, lots of twinkly lights, and two openly queer actresses playing the romantic leads.
Ali Liebert (Bomb Girls) is Amelia, a corporate lawyer who is on the fast track to take over her dad’s law firm, and Humberly Gonzalez (Utopia Falls, Ginny & Georgia) is Dani, a photographer who is looking for her next inspiration. Amelia and Dani’s dads were college roommates, and when Amelia still isn’t over her ex almost a year after their breakup, the dads meddle and get their daughters to meet. After a questionable coffee date (Amelia drinks plain black coffee like a monster, while Dani loves extra peppermint hot chocolate), Amelia lies to her dad and tells him that they hit it off and plan to see each other again.
With this movie, you get two classic romantic tropes in one: Fake Dating and High-Powered Career Type meets Carefree Artist. Putting those two together is holiday movie gold, and it works so so very well in this movie. They don’t lean too heavily on the tropes to do the story’s heavy lifting, which is actually quite refreshing! If anything, I’d say they should have stuck to the career trope, because the fake dating plot kind of disappears pretty quickly. Amelia is immediately taken by Dani, and as a result, it quickly feels less fake on her end. Dani is still too preoccupied with everything she has going on to realize that Amelia is really into her until the end.
The chemistry between Liebert and Gonzalez is one of the best things about Friends & Family Christmas. So often with Hallmark Christmas movies, the leads feel like they’re not even in the same room most of the time, let alone people who are supposed to be falling in love with each other. But from the moment Dani and Amelia meet, you can believe that they’re on track to fall in love before Santa Claus leaves the North Pole. There’s a scene where they dance together at a party, and while the dance was brief, the chemistry was palpable. Ali Liebert could teach a class on how to convey a million emotions with your eyes. And Humberly Gonzalez is sweeter than a double peppermint hot chocolate.
Now, you can’t have a good holiday romcom without an ensemble cast of wacky, funny supporting characters! My absolute favorite supporting characters are Dani’s parents. They remind me of my own parents in that they’re overbearing and don’t know how to chill. They mean well, but like many parents of only children, they just don’t know how to relax. I also loved Dani’s art initiative friends and Amelia’s delightful friend who we didn’t see nearly enough of.
I have one grievance with Friends & Family Christmas, though. It’s set in New York City, I assume because where else would a corporate lawyer and an artsy photographer fall in love? But, as a native New Yorker, I think this movie failed to summon a believable facsimile. I kept yelling at my TV! Their Brooklyn was too clean, too generic, too reliant on exposed brick. Also, who was paying for photographer/artist Dani’s apartment? She’s got one roommate, but she’d need at least two more to be able to afford that nice roomy place.
If you’re looking for something sweet to go along with your Christmas festivities, you really can’t go wrong with Friends & Family Christmas. It doesn’t reinvent the holiday romance wheel, but it’s a solid outing with a good cast in a delightfully predictable format. It’ll definitely go on my list of top sapphic holiday movies. Don’t forget to watch it with a double peppermint hot chocolate!