Just in time for Valentine's Day, Lifetime's "Navigating the Heart" presents the predictable story of an unlikely love affair between a big-time journalist and a small-time fisherman. Some attractive shots early on may draw viewers in, but stars Jaclyn Smith and Tim Matheson fail to establish much chemistry, and all the well-intentioned philosophizing about the simple life can't keep the story from sinking.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lifetime’s “Navigating the Heart” presents the predictable story of an unlikely love affair between a big-time journalist and a small-time fisherman. Some attractive shots early on may draw viewers in, but stars Jaclyn Smith and Tim Matheson fail to establish much chemistry, and all the well-intentioned philosophizing about the simple life can’t keep the story from sinking.

Smith plays Edith Iglauer, a high-powered magazine journalist from the Big Apple who can make congressmen shake. But when her editor decides it’s time to pursue a different demographic, he sends a flabbergasted Edith to Vancouver to do a story on the high price of salmon, beginning with when the fish is pulled from the water.

Arriving in a tiny town without the amenities a sophisticated urbanite is accustomed to, Edith seeks out the primary spokesman for the fisherman, who turns out to be a hunky loner named John Daly (Tim Matheson).

Matheson looks just right as the cranky, noisome fisherman who also knows fine wines. Having previously been betrayed by journalists, John at first doesn’t wish to speak with the big city reporter, and, since Edith won’t take no for an answer, it isn’t long before their interaction disintegrates primarily into put-downs.

Without the pushy aid of local Mary (Tantoo Cardinal), these two might never have realized that their arrogant, narcissistic personalities make them perfect for each other.

Mary is an ideal TV movie creation: part spiritual advisor, part matchmaker, part pseudo-hotelier and total know-it-all. Cardinal plays this figure of wisdom with a nice sense of commitment; it’s hard being the mouthpiece of a superficial film that condems superficiality, but Cardinal manages to pull off the preachy parts without sounding too ridiculous.

Once Mary does her job and forces the two combatants together, the inevitable romance is left to fate, which here comes in the form of an unexpected storm and a leaky boat.

Soon after facing the possibility of death together, Edith and John begin to fall in love. But Edith’s editor forces her back to New York, and there are a few more twists and turns before Edith can shed herself of the nonsense of city life and recognize where her heart is navigating her.

And, of course, there’s the story she writes about salmon. Smith’s expressions range, as usual, from the stolid to the stoic.

It’s refreshing to see a film shot in Vancouver that’s actually set in Vancouver. This allows cinematographer Eric Van Haren Noman to give viewers a glimpse of some of the natural beauty of the area, although it also makes the political side of the story, left vague in Cathleen Young and Lee Guthrie’s teleplay, even more contrived.

When Mary suggests that, to defeat a proposal for a dam, the community needs “national coverage,” the filmmakers seem to be forgetting that Canada is not the 51st state. Tech credits are strong.

Navigating the Heart

Lifetime; Mon. Feb.14, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Vancouver, B.C., by Lee Rose Prods. and Pacific Motion Pictures in association with Hearst Entertainment. Executive producers, Lee Rose, Tony Allard; producer, Rose; co-producer, Tara Twigg; director, D.B. Morris; writer, Cathleen Young and Lee Guthrie, based on the book "Fishing With John" by Edith Iglauer.

Crew

Camera, Eric Van Haren Noman; editor, Michael S. Murphy; production design, Douglas Higgins; music, Terence Blanchard; casting, Reuben Cannon & Assoc. (L.A.), Eddie Dunlop, Sid Kozak (Vancouver). Runninf time: 2 HRS.

Cast

Edith Iglauer - Jaclyn Smith John Daly - Tim Matheson William Sanders - David Andrews Mary - Tantoo Cardinal Cara Lieb - Lynda Boyd Jack Stanton - Kevin McNulty With: Stephen Dimopoulos, Luc Corbeil, Rob Freeman, Tom Heaton, Frank C. Turner, Alec Willows, Ben Cardinal, Dion Luther, Maria Louisa Figura, Greg Rogers, Edward Evanko.
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