Hallmark Hall of Fame’s” 46th season begins with a tepid drama fitting squarely into the wholesome tradition. “Calm at Sunset” (the 189th presentation in the series) has sufficient potential and insufficient conflict. While nice to look at, there’s not enough storm before the calm, and telepic meanders at sea.
Setting is a fishing village called Galilee. Peter Facinelli (“After Jimmy”) plays a young man who drops out of college to pursue his dream of making a living on the water. His parents — Michael Moriarty in convincing, puritanical mode and Kate Nelligan looking anxious — disapprove because of dad’s experience as a fisherman. The eldest son (Christopher Orr) is a budding real estate developer trying to rejuvenate Galilee; a safe and potentially lucrative landlubber’s career is what they envision.
Story treats the generational tension while commenting in predictable fashion on an endangered way of life. On some level the folksiness is meant to be ironic, but it doesn’t come through. Instead viewers keep biting into nuggets such as: “You can always judge a fisherman by the way he keeps his knife.”
Protagonist works on a scallop dragger, pals around with a crusty sailor (Kevin Conway), and plans to buy a lobster boat from an old-timer played by Melvin Van Peebles. His heart is broken by his childhood sweetheart and his father won’t get off his back.
Eventually an illicit career path, drug-running, becomes an issue, which explains the father’s irritability.
Producer-director Daniel Petrie gets good performances and tech work is tip-top. Ernest Troost’s Copland-esque score sets the mood. Nautical action is vivid and Halifax locations are authentic, as is every aspect of production. Yet telepic never coalesces and seems talkier than it really is. A shipboard pepper-eating contest is the most vivacious scene.
Main problem is structure. Trio of scribes introduce the crucial plot twist too late for it to be developed. The hasty resolution is unclear. Script is based on the novel “Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn” by Paul Watkins. In this adaptation, everything that transpires in between suggests calm.