Christmas Wedding Baby, the feature film debut by Kiara Jones, follows a trio of sisters whose lives are all in various states of flux. Andrea (Kimberley Drummond), the baby of the family, who serves as the glue for the story, returns back home to North Florida for her upcoming Christmas wedding. Though she is marrying the wealthy Brent (Maba Ba), it is clear there is trouble in paradise as the groom-to-be cannot even make time to tend to the last minute details. The lead up to Andrea’s big day is further complicated when her wedding planner unknowingly hires her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel (Sawandi Wilson), to be her wedding photographer.
As Andrea wrestles with the rekindled feelings she has for Gabriel, her middle sister Charlotte (Frances Turner) is struggling with own relationship issues. Tired of her bland family life with longtime boyfriend Isaac (Stephen Hill), a former DJ turned stay-at-home father, Charlotte begins toying with the idea of accepting the increasing advances of her co-anchor Kendal (Jason Vendryes). Unbeknownst to Charlotte though, her contemplation of dissolving the union comes just as Isaac is planning to propose.
Considering all the drama happening in the lives of her other two sisters, eldest sibling Lori (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) is left to tackle her pregnancy all by herself. Conceived during a one-night stand, no one in the family, especially the sisters’ overbearing mother Miranda (Maria Howell), seems happy that Lori is keeping the baby. As both the wedding and Lori’s due date quickly approach, tensions rise as the sisters learn something important about each other and, more importantly, themselves.
Christmas Wedding Baby is the type of romantic comedy that hits all, and I mean ALL, of the familiar beats one has come to expect from the genre. Regardless of whether it is the convenient ways Gabriel happens to be around when Brent calls to once again delay his visit; the fact that Isaac is the wonderful, but underappreciated, father; or the deeply-rooted mommy issues the sisters have, issues that manages to get resolved via one major act of maternal love in a time of crisis, no rom-com trope is left unturned. However, even with its overly predictable plot, by the end, it is hard to fully dismiss the film.
Jones’ scripted is peppered with several sharp moments of dialogue which manages to keep one’s interest. These scenes hint to not only her talents as a writer, but also the film’s untapped potential to be something greater than it is. In crafting her examination of women blinded by their own selfishness, Jones had the opportunity to offer some rich commentary about wealth and happiness. Unfortunately, instead of truly chomping down on these themes, she opts to nibble around the edges.
Despite the flashes of potential Jones displays, Christmas Wedding Baby never strives to be more than it is. The film is merely content with appealing to those who like their romantic comedies wrapped with a very recognizable bow.
Thursday, February 11, 7:00 PM, Carlton Cinema
Tickets can be purchased at the Toronto Black Film Festival website.