Television

Feliz NaviDAD Review: A Family-Oriented Romance with a Poignant Take on Living with Grief

Melissa Joan Hart and HartBreak production have done it again.

Feliz NaviDAD was another pleasing film that was just as much about family as it was about its two leads finding love with one another.

In many ways, those make the best Christmas movies, and Feliz NaviDAD was certainly one of the cutest.

Lifetime is on a roll; their Christmas films are maintaining the hopeful, fuzzy, and sweet flair to them while also losing some of the cheese.

While it’s nothing wrong with the cheesy factor, and it’s what makes most Christmas flicks endearing in the first place, they’ve struck a nice balance these days by grounding them, making them feel more relatable and real.

It’s working out for them.

In this case, there were some raw scenes and dialogue about grief and loss. It wasn’t somber, nor did it drag down the film.

However, Feliz NaviDAD weaved grief into the film in a realistic manner. It’s the exact type of thing that comes about around the holiday season for anyone dealing with loss.

David was a widow. While they didn’t go into the details of how he lost his wife and how many years she was gone, we felt her loss and how it weighed on the Morales family.

Isabela had space in the film even though David was finding love with Sophie. And a single father who happens to be a widow falling for Sophie, a woman who lost her mother and was also spending more time with her widowed dad wasn’t incidental.

In fact, Sophie’s connection with Noel was more endearing than her romance with David. And that speaks volumes since Sophie and David were an instant fun pairing with their flirty banter and fantastic energy.

We needn’t even get into how impossibly gorgeous they both are. AnnaLynne McCord doesn’t have a single terrible angle, and her beach wavy hair is worthy of envy. Meanwhile, Mario Lopez still has that winning smile, those dimples, and the classic swagger he hasn’t lost.

But yeah, one of the most affecting moments was Noelle and Sophie at the ice cream shop talking about their mothers. Sophie was wary of how OK Noel was with her father dating.

And you could tell she started off asking from the position of the woman Noel’s father was seeing, but then she also was coming from the place of a daughter who wanted to see her father happy, too.

Sophie’s father was lonely, and he missed her so much. He was dragging out the process of her packing up and shipping away her mother’s toys, all so Sophie would spend more time with him.

Noel was a smart and wise enough young lady to know that no other woman would replace her mother. She believed that to her core, and she also knew her father was a good man who deserved some happiness.

Noel’s thoughts on grief, the afterlife, and death were so profound for someone so young, and I found myself listening to her scenes attentively when she would share her thoughts on the subject.

She had an equally as compelling conversation with David about nothing is ever lost; it just becomes something else, like energy.

Both the Morales women were wise. David’s sister, Marissa, was quick to call him out on how he buried himself in that second job of delivering packages to hide his grief.

He missed out on things like Christmas Eve and time with Noel as she prepared for the Frosty Festival when he distracted himself with delivering packages.

On the plus side, that’s how he met Sophie in the first place, and as Sophie couldn’t help admitting, he did look damn good in that uniform.

Noel and Marissa were so cute when they worked together to get David out into the dating arena. They were scheming like sons of guns. But my goodness, the dating world was a disaster.

For one, after his first date with Sophie, nothing and no one ever compared. He had more fun on his “practice dates” with Sophie than he did with any of the others.

Although, they did give us some funny moments. The woman who was exercising the entire time was hilarious.

I actually laughed out loud at Melissa Joan Hart’s cameo as a woman who brought out crystals to determine if they were a match and peaced out when she found out his Libra air sign was incompatible with her Cancer water sign.

By the time he was spilling his guts about his feelings for Sophie to a new girl, it was clear that dating was not in the cards for him.

He and Sophie had the best dates and perfect chemistry, but she was hesitant about giving in to her feelings because of their unwillingness to give up their lives and cities to be together.

Who wants to start a romantic relationship with long-distance? But they both were mature, and what’s three hours difference? It’s nothing.

It could’ve been worse; they could’ve been on the other side of the country or world. It made no sense for David and Sophie to allow an insignificant three-hour difference to interfere with such a genuine connection they shared.

Sophie had already become part of the family. The dinner she spent with the Morales family making tamales was enough to make you smile.

It brings me to the effortless, genuine display of unapologetic Mexican in this film. It doesn’t seem like much to most people, but there is nothing better than the natural implementation of culture without explicitly focusing on or fetishizing it.

I loved the Mexican influence in the movie. The way the characters spoke Spanish or switched between Spanish and English was very real.

I loved how casually the movie showed the Morales making Mexican Wedding Cake cookies or homemade tamales, the Spanish terms of endearment tossed in, all of the other little touches.

Feliz NaviDAD wasn’t trying to tick off boxes or rack up diversity points; it just happened to be about this Mexican-American family in Arizona, and their culture was just part of their characters.

It’s especially nice to see that during holiday flicks.

And, of course, the big Christmas moment that they all had to work toward was making sure Noel’s performance with Las Bocas Locas went on without a hitch.

The Pinestar Lakeshore competition was epic, and all the PineStar kids wanted was to measure up and hold their own at the Christmas show.

It included using the lovely Helen’s bells (with gloves, thanks to Sophie saving the day) and an adorable acapella performance that had me singing along with them.

Tío Jesse was a hoot, but he wasn’t cut out for leading the kids to victory. It’s a good thing Sophie stepped up for that instead.

And it was the sweetest when Noel dedicated her performance to their principal, and her father, David.

It was important for him to realize that even though he flubbed the gloves situation, putting Noel first didn’t and shouldn’t have to come at the expense of himself.

And Sophie was right about him letting other people help him sometimes.

The conclusion of the film was enough to give you all the warm fuzzies. David and Sophie were happily a couple. Sophie’s father found some companionship with Helen.

Everyone came together at the Morales’ home for a nice family dinner and Christmas celebration.

Even though there were some losses, their family has grown and evolved, and it’s sweet.

Over to you, Lifetime Fanatics. Did you love this one? Hit the comments below!

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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