Sometime Other Than Now (2021) is essentially a Hallmark movie with a slightly grittier feel and less idyllic small town setting. You have the rugged, mysterious loner with a dark secret in his past, the lonely, kooky hotelier who is afraid of entering into a new relationship and a friendly seaside town in which everybody knows what their neighbours are up to. This is a familiar story and I kept waiting for Sometime Other Than Now to kick into gear. However, it doesn’t show anything new and the big twist is so predictable, that you will find yourself yawning. The best Hallmark movies hit you with a twist that is so ludicrous that you can’t help but stick around and see how the screenwriters earnestly try to make us believe that this plot point could be grounded in reality. This film is just bland in its execution and it won’t even allow fans of this genre to get their kicks.
Sam (Donal Logue) crashes his motorbike and ends up stranded in a small town in New England. He had traveled there in order to visit his estranged daughter, Audrey (Trieste Kelly Dunn) who he abandoned 25 years ago. He wants to repair his relationship with her and move on with his life after having made several mistakes in the past. He enters into a relationship with Kate (Kate Walsh) but they are on shaky ground from the start, because he announces that he plans not to stay in town for too long, whereas she owns the hotel that he is staying at and is content to stay in the town. With her help, Sam makes some inroads with Audrey, but his own trepidations threaten to tear them apart.
The mundanity of this small town and the lack of romanticisation that is applied to it, was refreshing for me. That set me up to believe that this could have been a laidback, stripped down character study about an ordinary man trying to settle into life in a secluded location. The pokey little restaurants on the outskirts of town don’t glisten in the sun and the sky is occasionally overcast. I have become so sick of every romance being entirely set during Magic Hour. The golden tinge that hangs over everything just looks cheesy.
However, the location scout for this project clearly had a good eye, because they picked out motels that do look rundown and suburban houses that appear just nice enough to belong to a lower middle class person. The paint has faded over time, the front lawn is slightly overgrown and yet the interiors are full of the tchotchkes that only those with disposable cash can afford. This adds some texture to the location and that was sorely needed when the script wasn’t giving us a sense of time and place. There are times when you do want to see films that exist in a world that feels realistic and that can help you to buy into the fantasy that they present to you.
As soon as Kate starts directing meaningful looks at Sam, we all know what’s up and I breathed a sigh of regret as I realised that this was going to be a typical romance. This even verges on Labour Day (2013) territory as our hero is meant to be desirable because of his ability to easily fix up the motel that Kate runs. When his fingers run over the faulty hinge that is causing the door to malfunction, she might as well be licking her lips like a predator stalking her prey. We know that his woodsy manliness will cause her to feel inexorably drawn to him and they’ll eventually fall into bed together before hashing out what they want out of their relationship.
All of this is handled in a very rote manner and there is none of the vibrancy that should characterise this sort of relationship. Logue and Walsh are both giving colourless, anonymous performances and they don’t really stand out. Like actors who appear in Hallmark productions, they are just one in a long line of pretty faces who will play stock character types who show up in all of these entries in the genre. You never find yourself drawn in by them and when they are called upon to bring spunk or personality to their roles, there isn’t a spark of originality in sight.
It also definitely feels like people forgive Sam for his mistakes far too quickly. He abandoned his child for decades and suddenly shows up on her doorstep without having informed her that he wants to reconnect with her. His daughter is allowed to display some evidence of having been hurt by his abandonment at first, but her walls are very easily broken down and we are greeted with a series of cutesy scenes in which Sam teaches his granddaughter how to play the guitar. It feels like there isn’t quite enough of him working through his hesitance over becoming a real father again and he and his daughter return to being buddies with relative ease. They should have experienced great pains as they tried to overcome the difficulties they faced in the past. I wonder whether the makers of the film were concerned about losing the audience who just wanted something that went down easy. They decided to truncate the reconciliation section of this story, in favour of more scenes where Kate offers her new beau some sage advice.
Even with these efforts to mellow some of the more hard-hitting subplots, this still won’t scratch the itch of those who need a bit of idealised romance in their lives. Love, Guaranteed (2020) and Romance on the Menu (2020) both try to cater to the same audience and hit a lot of the same beats. Those will reach a wider audience because they are available on Netflix and promote themselves as quirkier alternatives to something like this. Ultimately, Sometime Other Than Now is too innocuous for me to warn you away from it, but don’t expect too much of it all the same. It’s not 2021’s answer to a classic like Christmas in Vienna (2020).