Brush With Fate
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My mom loves the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies—the ones they show on CBS on Sunday nights. In fact, I think they’re pretty much the only movies she’ll watch. I, on the other hand, have always stayed away from them, assuming them to be little more than worthless sap—but I made an exception for Brush with Fate.

But I had a good reason.

A couple of years ago, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to the Netherlands. We spent a month in Delft, a beautiful old town famous for its pottery—as well as for its famous son, artist Johannes Vermeer. While we were in Delft, the cameras arrived—along with trailers full of extras and costumes and horses. We soon discovered that they were filming a made-for-TV movie based on Susan Vreeland’s book, Girl in Hyacinth Blue—a movie that would eventually a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie called Brush with Fate. So of course, I had to see it. I missed it on TV, so I was ecstatic to find it on DVD.

Glenn Close plays Cornelia Englebrecht, a quiet, anti-social prep school teacher who decides to reveal a long-kept family secret to Richard (Thomas Gibson), the school’s new art teacher. She shows him a spectacular painting, which she tells him is “the lost Vermeer.” Though she has no papers to prove the painting’s authenticity, she has plenty of stories. She’s spent her life researching the history of the painting and of those who once owned it—and she tells their stories to Richard. Each story tells of a person who loved the painting—who fought to keep it but eventually had to let it go. She even tells the story of Magdalena, Vermeer’s daughter, the girl who modeled for the painting. And finally, she tells her own story—the story of how her father came to own the painting.

While I haven’t read Girl in Hyacinth Blue yet, I’ve heard wonderful things about it. I think, however, that while attempting to capture the story on film, the filmmakers ran into a few problems—and understandably so. It’s difficult to condense 250 pages into 100 minutes—especially when those 250 pages are filled with several different stories. Although those that were selected were interesting stories, they were all quite short, which made it difficult to really connect to any of the characters. And when the closing credits rolled, I was still left with a number of unanswered questions—like why Cornelia would show Richard the painting and what she expected him to do about it.

At the same time, this is an impressive production for a made-for-TV movie. It was shot on location, of course, and the scenery is spectacular. And the story, despite its flaws, is enchanting. If you’re an art enthusiast, you’ll be intrigued by the story of this one painting that touched the lives of so many different people through the centuries. If you’re a sappy-drama kind of movie-lover, you’ll enjoy the stories of love and loss and commitment and responsibility. For the rest of you, don’t expect an Oscar-worthy film, but don’t let the Hallmark Hall of Fame stamp scare you away, either. You might just like it.

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