This time of year, TV entertainment is rampant with fabricated feel-good sentiments and manufactured emotions. In fact, viewers have been so conditioned by holiday TV’s moments of serendipitous redemption that on a superficial level, Hallmark Channel’s “Accidental Friendship” may disappoint. However, director Don McBrearty doesn’t stoop to the usual gimmicks, and with a thoughtful script by Anna Sandor tells a simple, meaningful story.
Based on the true story of an unfolding friendship between a homeless woman and an LAPD cop, “Accidental Friendship” almost serves a near-political metaphor while working as pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps inspiration.
Still, despite its subject matter, the pic is more of a character study than a message movie. “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Chandra Wilson stars as Yvonne, a woman who wanders the streets of Los Angeles collecting cans so she can feed herself and her two dogs. Abandoned and abused by men, she’s suspicious of everyone but finds a confidant in widower Wes (Ben Vereen). Wes, once a successful businessman, lost everything after his wife got sick.
Tami (Kathleen Monroe), a police officer, makes it a point to familiarize herself with the people on her beat and takes particular interest in Yvonne when she notices her dedication to her dogs. Tami shares her love of animals and mistrust of men, but theirs is not a fast friendship. Both women are prickly and proud, but over time they slowly warm to one another.
Not exactly a holiday movie, the film quietly espouses what some would call the true spirit of the season without the usual pitfalls. Bad things happen and don’t get resolved. Big, dramatic moments are outnumbered by repeatedly bad choices. The revelations here are small and personal when measured on the usual TV-movie scale. Sometimes that drags down the pace a bit.
It’s worth the payoff, though, as the build-up allows viewers to identify with both Yvonne and Tami. Wilson is a marvel here, giving an unflinchingly raw and emotional performance. Monroe is more studied and even as the tightly wound Tami, playing nicely against Wilson’s Yvonne. Vereen’s cameo is small but affecting, reinforcing the understated nature of the film.