Pictures of Hollis Woods

Produced By:  Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            It has been my experience that Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions’ movies are very heartwarming tales of life, love and overcoming adversity.  Some of them can be downright sappy, so I watch a very select few.  This past weekend, CBS premiered a Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions movie entitled Pictures of Hollis Woods.  There really wasn’t anything else on television that night, so I decided to watch the beginning and see how I felt about it.  The story so captured me that I had to see it through to the end.

            We view the tale through the eyes of Hollis Woods (Jodelle Ferland), an orphan named after the street corner in Queens where she was left as a baby.  Hollis tells us that she has brought trouble to everyone she has ever known in her life.  Thus, Hollis has found herself virtually un-adoptable.  She alludes to a family with which she almost had a chance at happiness, but quickly diverts us to the here and now, unable to divulge the secret as to why she is no longer with them. 

            The present day Hollis is 12 years old and is being taken to a new home by her ever persistent social worker, Edna Reilly (Alfrie Woodard).  At first, Hollis is certain that things won’t work out with Josie Cahill (Sissy Spacek), a retired teacher who has fostered children in the past.  However, Hollis soon discovers that Josie is a kind, well-meaning woman who shares her passion for art.  Josie is such a pleasure to be with that Hollis tries to overlook the forgetfulness that plagues her new friend.  Unfortunately, that forgetfulness becomes infinitely worse and Hollis is soon faced with the possibility of losing a home with someone she truly cares about.

            This is when we start to see flashbacks of the one family Hollis thought she could fit into.  By learning bits and pieces about her time with the Regans, we discover why Hollis is so scared of forming emotional bonds with other people.  We learn the guilt Hollis feels and why she believes she “messed things up” with the one family who truly wanted to adopt her. 

            Eventually, Hollis decides that she has become too attached to Josie to let go, especially since Josie has become so forgetful that she fairly relies on Hollis.  The way Hollis sees it, they need each other too much to be separated.  Thus, she decides to run away with Josie to the one place she felt happy and secure, the Regan’s summer home.  Anyone who knows the kinds of movies Hallmark produces will know what sort of ending to expect here, but for those who have never watched a Hallmark Presentation, this is one of the better movies I’ve seen from them in a long time.  It may have the predictable ending, but it’s the events that take place in the story that lead to that ending which are most enjoyable.

            Jodelle Ferland is adorable as Hollis Woods.  Ferland is very young, but gives the impression of someone very deep emotionally.  She does an excellent job in expressing the deep-seated emotional turmoil that envelops the character of Hollis Woods.  Sissy Spacek is wonderful as Josie, a retired teacher suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer ’s disease.  As an actress, Spacek always puts 110% into every role she plays and the role of Josie Cahill is no exception.  Her portrayal of an Alzheimer’s victim is spot-on amazing.  Alfrie Woodard is excellent as the long suffering social worker who believes in Hollis even when Hollis no longer believes in herself.  James Tupper and Julie Ann Emery portray the Regan parents - Emery much more believably than Tupper I’m afraid – and Ridge Canipe is a scene stealer as Steven, the Regan’s son.

            I know that I said that many Hallmark Productions have been sappy and some fairly unbelievable, but Pictures of Hollis Woods, based on the award-winning novel by Patricia Reilly Giff is different.  This is a story that will appeal to anyone.  Hollis’ fear of emotional attachment – of getting hurt through that attachment – is something that many of us can relate to.  The character of Hollis Woods is written and portrayed in such a way as to make the viewer root for her happiness.  You become vested in the character from the opening scenes and take a sincere interest in the story’s outcome.  Yes, the tale will elicit a tear or two, but this movie is filled with light-hearted moments that will make you smile a great deal more than you will be crying.  There are sad moments, but you won’t be holding onto the tissue box for every scene.

            Pictures of Hollis Woods was a pleasant surprise for me and I most definitely recommend this movie as one that will tug at your heart strings at the same time as it puts a smile on your face.


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