In an time when we are overwhelmed by emails, texting, Facebook messaging, Skype, and Google Hangouts, the Hallmark channel has managed to make a likable made-for-TV movie about the United States Postal Office. Based on the series that aired on the channel, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love, is one of those TV movies that if you stumble upon it, and watch for a few minutes, you’ll get sucked right in. It may not be something you set out to watch, or would normally like, but the story, the characters, and the plot are likable enough for you to stay awhile and see it through conclusion.
This is the second movie in the original series, which follows four postal workers who track down the intended recipients of undelivered mail. They call themselves the “Postables.” There are a few moments in From Paris, with Love that references something that happened in the series or a previous film. But they do not hinder a new viewer from enjoying this story.
Eric Mabius is Oliver O’Toole, the poetic, straight-tied, intellectual who is currently separated from his wife. Rita (Crystal Lowe) and Norman (Geoff Gustafson) are assistants who are each awkward in their own ways. Kristin Booth is Shane McInerney who is the tech support for this crew and who obvisously has feelings for Oliver, though unspoken. From Paris, with Love is really just a longer, uninterrupted series of episodes.
The theme of this movie centers around that of marriage. The task the Postables are faced with is delivering divorce papers to a couple that appears to be truly happy. The papers are two years old, and were filed by the husband after he thought he had discovered his wife cheating on him.
Of course, all of it hits a little too close to home for Oliver, who hasn’t heard from his wife. Holly (Poppy Montgomery), is about the same amount of time. She left him and went to Paris. He wrote a letter which never made it to her. He doesn’t know it never arrived, and she doesn’t know that it was ever written. Shane discovers the letter, and with Rita’s help learns that it is Oliver’s letter to Holly. Norman accidentally sends it out with the overnight mail, and within 24-hours, Holly is standing in the post office.
Martha Williamson, the creative mind behind Touched by an Angel, is one of the creative storytellers on this project. She explained in an HollywoodJesus.com interview that as Hallmark was debuting it’s new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, it was looking for something that would anchor it, and so a movie based on the popular series made a lot of business sense. Williamson states, “It’s a wonderful opportunity for more storytelling. . . . As the series grew, we learned how much everybody was embracing these people.”
It also provided Williamson the opportunity to do a romantic-comedy in a world that is different from the days she wrote Touched by an Angel. We live, she observes, “in a post-9/11 world, where is it more difficult than ever to live in faith and hope. We have so much more technology that has overtaken our lives, that has caused us to lost some of that human connection. I wanted to introduce those ideas through a man who is a 20th century man living in a 21st century world.”
Oliver is the man through whom Williamson introduces these ideas. And it is dear to Williamson’s heart. Oliver is based on her father, who was born in 1901. He was a man of faith. There was never a divorce in his family, who always did what he thought was based. But in the 1930’s he married a woman who was not right for him, and after 12 years he divorced her. It was extremely difficult for Williamson’s father, and sought mercy and forgiveness. “It was a terribly difficult situation for him,” Williamson recalls.
“So, I think to explore [mercy and forgiveness] not from an angel point of view, but from a human point of view, was very attractive to me at a time when humans are really tempted to throw out anything that is spiritual,” Williamson says.
One of the lines that stood out to me was, “Love is a mystery.” We asked Williamson about this line. “It’s always a mystery that two become one,” Williamson says. The line is spoken by Norman who is in love with Rita, but not sure how to express that love. Norman looks up to Oliver, but Oliver is stuck in being faithful to his vows to Holly and staying in a marriage that is not really a marriage. “For Norman, he is still learning on a secular level too,” she says. “We are are all trying to figure it out.”
The greater mystery of love, Williamson points out, is the mysterious, unconditional love of God. It’s like “Amazing Grace,” she points out. We could say, “Mysterious Grace.” The fact that God loves us so, it is any wonder that we can love others. For nine years, Williamson delivered a message of God’s love on Sunday nights through Touched by an Angel. Now, she is delivering that love outside of the church/heavenly walls, with characters who are spiritual but are not beating people over the head with it.
The film delivers on sparking a conversation about marriage and reconciliation, in a way that is not treating. It is a solid family film, but it could be a film that could be used in a small group of couples to discuss the hard work that marriage is and the role reconciliation plays in it.
The most appreciative thing about From Paris, with Love, is that Oliver and Holly decide together that the best thing for their marriage is a divorce. Even so, they reconcile. They forgive. That should give us hope that we all can do the same in all of our relationships.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris, with Love, premieres Saturday, June 6, 2015 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.