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16 Dec 2023


NextImg:Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Sealed With A List’ on Hallmark Is An Opposites-Attract Holiday Romance That Exceeds Expectations

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Sealed With A List on the Hallmark Channel is further proof that you really can’t judge a holiday rom-com based on its corny title. This adorable, funny movie is about a type-A woman who has always chosen the stable, boring path instead of chasing her dreams. Her boss at work, by contrast, is the company owner’s lazy, privileged son who has never worked a full day in his life. Despite their differences, they team up to help each other – he is going to help her check off all of the aspirational New Year’s resolutions on her list, and she’s going to show him what it’s like to have a work ethic. In the process, they’re gonna fall in love. What could have been silly, sitcom drivel is elevated by solid lead performances and snappy dialogue; Sealed With A List exceeds all expectations.

Opening Shot: It’s the company Christmas party and Carley Kincaid’s (Katie Findlay) not-so-secret Santa, her nerdy officemate Greg, drops off the mug he got for her at her desk. After he leaves, Carley’s boss asks to speak with her.

The Gist: Carley’s boss, Silas Redmond (Martin Donovan), has cornered Carley to tell her that Carley’s boss in the quality control department of the fast fashion company has retired. For a split second, Carley, who is serious about her job even though she’s not passionate about it and would rather be a fashion designer, gets excited thinking she’s in line to replace him, but it turns out that the boss has given his inexperienced son Wyatt (Evan Roderick) the job instead. Wyatt is lazy and shows no interest in the job, and yet he gets everything handed to him – classic nepo baby stuff. (He also lives in his own New York City mansion and is tended to by a doting staff who prepare him Eggo waffles with whipped cream in the shape of Santa’s beard. They probably do this to compensate for the fact that his mother died eight years ago and his strained relationship with his business-focused father doesn’t offer him much in the way of familial love.)

Carley’s bestie Jamie is there for her as a sounding board and to commiserate over the disappointing news about her non-promotion, but not for long: she’s a sommelier and she’s moving to Italy to study her craft and live her best life, and she suggests Carley do the same. Jamie tells Carley to make a list of New Year’s resolutions so she can embrace life and live it to the fullest, but as we see from a time-lapse montage, almost a year goes by and Carley doesn’t do anything to get out of her personal and professional rut.

When a huge clothing order gets screwed up because Wyatt didn’t, you know, control the quality, Carley takes the blame for it and Silas fires her. Both Silas and Wyatt know Carley wasn’t at fault, but she uses the situation as an excuse to get pushed out of her job, because maybe then she’ll pursue her dream of fashion design. Silas is no idiot, and he knows the mistake was Wyatt’s fault, so after firing Carley, he tells his son that he has till the end of the calendar year (exactly one month) to shape up at work, or he’s cutting his son off from the family fortune.

Wyatt goes to Carley’s apartment to apologize for getting her fired for his mistake, and while he’s there, she decides to tag along with him to a party he’s headed to – having new adventures was on her list of New Year’s resolutions, after all. The next day, she comes up with a plan: she wants Wyatt to help her achieve everything on her list of resolutions, and she’ll help him be a more responsible and mature human being who can prove to his father that he’s capable of doing his job.

After a couple of weeks, they open up to each other about their losses – his mother died, her dad abandoned her – and eventually he moves out of his palatial brownstone and into an apartment not paid for by his dad, and Wyatt encourages Carley to take sewing lessons and push her creativity. They both grow as people because they push one another, and of course, they smooch mere seconds before the credits roll, as everyone in Hallmark movies is contractually obligated to do.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of? The premise, about a pompous man-child who has to learn how to be a good human with the help of a decent woman, reminded me of films like As Good As It Gets and About A Boy, though this one is more carefree and low-stakes (trade womanizing and mental illness for Wyatt’s mommy issues) than those.

A Holiday Tradition: The movie is based around Carley’s unresolved New Year’s Resolutions that she never got to… If there’s any tradition as classic as making New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not getting around to accomplishing them!

Does the Title Make Any Sense?: Yes, there’s a list in the movie! And list substitutes for the word kiss, and there’s one of those, too!

Our Take: I laughed, I cried, I’m not kidding. I am a hard nut to crack with some of these holiday movies, and Sealed With A List overcame an obvious and predictable premise thanks to the feel-good chemistry between Katie Findlay and Evan Roderick. The film doesn’t make us wait long in order to see that Wyatt’s actually a good guy, the main problem is that he’s been using his privilege and bougie lifestyle as a coping mechanism since his mother’s death. Similarly, Carley has used the excuse of being abandoned by her father (and being raised by a broke single mother) to keep people at arm’s length and be in control of every aspect of her life, seeking out stability and evading her creativity. There are no obvious villains here, just two people waiting to find someone to bring out the best in them.

All of their character traits could become clichéd tropes in other actors’ hands, but they’re played with so much warmth and heart by both Findlay and Roderick that you can actually feel something for them when they open up to each other about their grief and trauma, and that makes their story arcs all the more rewarding. I admit that, during a moment where Carley opened up to her mother about losing her job, her mother’s speech about taking the opportunity to follow her dreams got me a little choked up. Similarly, when Wyatt’s dad tells him he’s proud of him at the end, the emotion is well-earned. All of this emotion is cut with plenty of humor and quirky, fun details that make Carley and Wyatt’s relationship feel real and worth investing your time in.

Parting Shot: It’s December 31st. Wyatt and his father are hosting a New Year’s Eve party. Carley tells Wyatt she has one last item to check off her resolution list, “say yes to new adventures.” She throws the list up in the air, and grabs him for a kiss.

Performance Worth Watching: Katie Findlay truly glows on screen – she’s equally vulnerable, witty, and sarcastic, the trifecta of single New York gal charisma.

Memorable Dialogue: “Is this really the same man you’ve been complaining about all year?” Carley’s mom asks her when she finally meets Wyatt. Because he’s actually not a jerky boss anymore, he’s a nice guy… or maybe Carley’s just been molding him into one.

Our Call: STREAM IT! Sealed With A List is a standout among this year’s holiday romances.