Lost Holiday: The Jim and Suzanne Shemwell Story



9-11 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8

In the genre of holiday movies, television usually goes for something a little more lighthearted than this.

Lifetime's "Lost Holiday: The Jim and Suzanne Shemwell Story" is tough going for most of its airtime, but it still captures the holiday spirit with its feel-good ending.

Based on the true story of an Idaho couple who are stranded in a blizzard for a few days, this "Holiday" takes viewers on a roller-coaster ride instead of the smooth path down to Santa's. It's a welcome change.

Jami Gertz and Dylan Walsh star as Suzanne and Jim, an estranged couple who have been separated for two years. When Jim decides to visit Suzanne and their two daughters for Christmas, it isn't exactly a rosy visit at first. Then they decide to go snowmobiling in the mountains. When their excursion turns into a life-threatening mishap, they are faced not only with the challenge to stay alive but also to confront the reasons for their separation. In the spirit of Christmas, of course, a cheery ending prevails.

Director-writer Gregory Goodell infuses as much action as he can into this otherwise rather static drama. The photography by Craig Wrobleski is spectacular because he has all that brilliant sunlight to play around with. The film's natural beauty is stunning. Bridget Durnford's editing is fast-paced and therefore integral to the story's spirit.

Gertz and Walsh are more than believable as the estranged couple. Gertz always seems to give her all to a part. Her character here (as well as Walsh's) has to take a back seat to the physical landscape around them, but when the camera gets close enough, both actors give strong performances.

Given that this is a true story, the drama takes on a more serious dimension -- one of Lifetime's trademarks in the annals of real lives that get a not-so-fictional treatment for the small screen. It's not much of a challenge to puzzle out how this story will end, even from its first moments. But the production is first-rate, and the story finds its own virtues.

Lifetime Pictures in association with TFI International and Nomadic Pictures
Producers: Chad Oakes, Mike Frislev
Director-teleplay: Gregory Goodell
Director of photography: Craig Wrobleski
Production designer: Trevor Smith
Music: Ron Ramin
Editor: Bridget Durnford
Casting director: Jackie Lind
Suzanne Shemwell: Jami Gertz
Jim Shemwell: Dylan Walsh