When Kennedy Blaine, a recent law school graduate, inherits her family’s Valentine, Nebraska ranch property, she is faced with the requirement to visit the property before she tries to sell it. When she arrives, she finds two caretakers who loved her parents, even if the young man is a bit rough around the edges. Kennedy also receives a treasure as a part of her father’s passing: the diary of her mother, which chronicles their story of forbidden love. While in Valentine, Kennedy must not only face shady characters trying to get their hands on her property, but also long lost relatives who won’t give her the love she wants. Before she knows it, Kennedy finds herself caught up in the excitement of her parent’s ranch—and the mysterious young caretaker who constantly haunts her.
Production Quality (2 points)
For the most part, Up Entertainment has mastered the art of creating a professional-looking made-for-TV film. The camera work is excellent, as is the video quality. The sound quality is good, especially in outdoor scenes. Sets and locations are diverse, making for realistic surroundings. The sad thing is that this otherwise perfect production is usurped by issues that are easily fixed by a team this professional: editing and soundtrack. The soundtrack is quite silly and sounds borrowed from Hallmark. As for the editing, not enough care is taken to generate interest from the audience. There are too many wasted segments of scenery and horseback riding, especially when these parts could be used for better purposes. But in the end, Up schools made-for-TV productions on how to do it right and they should be looked to for advice.
Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)
As previously mentioned, if the scenery and horse segments had been toned down and used for deeper plot and character development, this movie would have landed on the Hall of Fame. As it is, there is a framework of complexity that is rarely seen on television. We only wish there had been a deeper utilization of the few yet intriguing flashbacks. The characters are a little more than one-dimensional, but they struggle to make themselves special in a world of stock romance characters. The dialogue is above average, but not much more than that. There are several unrealistic elements in the premise and some odd plot holes. There is a slight feel of a silly small town film. The Christian message is too soft for this type of movie—it could have been more meaningful than this. Finally, the end is forced and tacked on. There was no reason to insert an unwanted ‘suspenseful’ climax into this film, especially since it’s not even realistic. This is perhaps the biggest detractor to the plot. In the end, Valentine left a lot of potential lying on the table. Next time, Up needs to play their cards better.
Acting Quality (3 points)
With no glaring errors, the acting is the strongest element to Valentine. Line delivery is professional and emotions are believable. The actors and actresses enhance the characters they are given. This acting job is better than some films that make the Hall of Fame. Yet it also stands as another example of disappointment and wasted potential in this movie.
Up Entertainment has mastered the art of creating an inspirational romance movie that is more than a romance. Now, it’s time for them to take it to the next level by being more innovative when it comes to the plot. Charm came closer to crafting a complex plot, but this was partly due to its loose adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Romance writers need to take a page from Rik Swartzwelder’s playbook and create a romance plot that is deeper and more complex than usual. Viewers desperately want this, even if they don’t realize it. We need romance that means something beyond surface feelings. Unfortunately, though it is more enjoyable and realistic than a Hallmark movie, Valentine misses the mark on this front.
Final Rating: 6.5 out of 10 points