Original Airdate: October 29, 1995
Awhile back I wrote about some of the more interesting romance movie series of the eighties and nineties (you can read my two-part post here and here). At the time, I was only somewhat familiar with the Harlequin TVMs, mostly because I bought something called Change of Place from the series on a whim and thought it was thoroughly adorable. As I mentioned in my previous article, the Harlequin telefilms aired mostly on Sunday afternoons on stations affiliated with CBS, making it perfect for lazy day viewing. And true to form, a movie with the title At the Midnight Hour is exactly what you’d expect from something airing under the Harlequin moniker, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.
Lovely Patsy Kensit is Elizabeth, a recently widowed woman who finds employment as a nanny for the brilliant but aloof scientist Richard Keaton (Simon MacCorkindale). Richard is also recently widowed and had shipped his son Andrew (Keegan MacIntosh) off to live with his grandparents, who die in some kind of accident (geesh, can this get more maudlin?). So, Andrew is back on the gorgeous Keaton estate grounds but is almost as aloof as his father (and definitely brattier). He also thinks the ghost of his mother is stalking the nannies, scaring them off of the grounds and out of his life. In short, he’s got separation issues. Elizabeth seeks to be the one reliable thing in Andrew’s life, but things get hinky when it is slowly revealed that Andrew’s mother may have been murdered by someone who is very close to the Keaton family.
Midnight Hour is a Canadian lensed film, featuring British leads starring in a movie intended for an American audience. Très international, no? The most interesting cast member is the venerable Canadian-born character actress Kay Hawtrey, whom I know best as Mrs. Chalmers the Embalmer from Funeral Home. She is merely window dressing here, and doesn’t even really make for a decent red herring, but seeing her was a definite treat. The biggest issues I had with this telefilm are the obvious ending (you will be able to pick out the wife-killing culprit the second you lay eyes on them), as well as the way Elizabeth declares Richard as her greatest love. At the beginning of the film we see Elizabeth’s husband basically putting himself between her and a bullet, saving her life (while ending his). Then, after she and Richard do the naked pretzel in the beautiful library with the awesome fireplace, she proclaims that she really didn’t love her first husband that much! What? This man died for you! I was slightly incensed to say the least, but then I remembered it was a Harlequin movie and somehow managed to pull myself together.
I should add that despite a couple of badly written moments (you know, like that part where Elizabeth totally degrades her love for the guy who took a bullet for her… OK, OK, moving on…), this gothic but ultra light thriller has all of the right elements. There’s that large, dark library that is always lit by an inviting fire, there’s the proverbial slinking around darkened hallways, things that go bump in the night, metaphorical ghosts and a nice helping of romance that, surprisingly, never feels overdone. And surprise, surprise! Andrew is kind of adorable as the nerdy kid who just needs a little love (awwww!). As someone who has little tolerance for damaged kids in romance movies (take that as you will), I found I actually gave a damn what happened to him. Kensit is wonderful as usual and the reliable MacCorkindale is appropriately broad shouldered and sexy. While it’s no Rebecca or anything, At the Midnight Hour is definitely a treat for the forgiving hopeless romantic!