Keri works ‘Magic’ in Hallmark film

Magic of Ordinary Days,” the Hallmark Hall of Fame drama airing tomorrow night on CBS, casts a spell, but it’s not magical.

Hypnotic is the better word.

It slowly – very slowly – drums home the message that there are joys in the simple, everyday life, and that there’s no need to look beyond one’s own horizon.

This is fine for Livy Dunne (Keri Russell), the pregnant, unmarried graduate student whose father arranges a marriage of convenience for her, far from home and friends, with lonely farmer Ray Singleton (Skeet Ulrich).

But for a viewer wondering when sparks will ignite between the couple, and enduring the drama’s excruciatingly slow pace, patience is required in bulk.

Slow and easy does it is the lesson both Livy and viewers must learn. For Livy, there’s an eventual payoff from what she considers a boring life; for viewers, it’s watching Russell, the former star of “Felicity,” beautifully handle this game of dramatic softball.

The actress gracefully steps into her new life, bewildered by her placid farmer/husband, who accepts his new situation as “God’s will.”

Ulrich, hidden half the time under a big-brimmed hat, fills his role with gentle understanding, staying out of Livy’s way yet allowing her the run of the house. When he realizes her scholastic interests were in archeology, he goes to the local library to learn about the hidden city of Troy so he can share her life.

There are no outbursts of frustration. Husband and wife tiptoe around each other, as Livy gradually sees the beauty in her new life. She even makes friends with two Japanese girls who are documenting the species of butterflies in the community. Eventually, she dances with Ray at his sister’s (Mare Winningham) birthday bash.

Winningham delivers a down-to-earth performance as the supportive sister, whose husband, Chester (Sam Dyer), and three children make Livy feel welcomed.

This is not an eventful drama, but rather a lovely love story. It is based on the 2001 novel by Ann Howard Creel, as adapted by Camille Thomasson. It was executiveproduced by Richard Welsh and directed by Brent Shields, whose light touch is just right for the material.

Originally published on January 29, 2005