The light finally goes on over Livy Dunne’s head

From: The Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2005
by: Mike Duffy

At last, this educated pretty city woman gets it. She’s truly blessed to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a simple, soft-spoken farming man who truly adores her.

It’s love, Livy. Enjoy it.

That’s the tender human truth at the lovely heart of “The Magic of Ordinary Days,” which brings incandescent “Felicity” star Keri Russell back to prime time in a sweet, touching Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation at 9 p.m. Sunday on CBS.

The gracefully muted period drama — which costars Skeet Ulrich (“As Good As It Gets”) as Livy’s laconic, serendipitous soul mate — is set in the wide open spaces of rural Colorado during World War II.

And it moves at a slow, unforced pace in weaving the bittersweet tale of Russell’s troubled Livy and her do-right knight in sod-covered overalls.

When we first see her, Livy is looking pensively out the window of a passenger train rolling through the Colorado countryside. She’s pregnant and unwed, sent away by her stern, unforgiving father and into a marriage of convenience with a stranger, the shy beet farmer Ray Singleton (Ulrich). The two appear to have absolutely nothing in common.

Livy, who was a graduate student back in Denver with dreams of becoming an archaeologist, had fallen into an ill-fated romance with a soldier on leave. He left her pregnant and never looked back.

But even as Ray Singleton begins to haltingly reveal himself as a down-to-earth man of heart and tremendous sensitivity, offering his reluctant wife genuine affection and understanding when he’s getting none in return, Livy continues to send letters to the soldier who walked away.

It doesn’t help when Livy’s self-absorbed sister pays a visit, trying to lure her back to Denver while making snarky fun of Ray.

“You can’t have your baby on a beet farm,” says the silly sis. “All anyone ever talks about is the weather.”

Gradually, though, as the months pass and the birth of her child nears, Livy begins to see “the magic of ordinary days.”

Ray’s warmhearted sister Martha (Mare Winningham) and her family have embraced Livy as one of their own. And Ray’s sometimes awkward, but deeply-felt efforts to prove his growing love for Livy create their own moments of emotional magic.

Along the way, Livy also befriends a Japanese family living in a nearby internment camp, adding a subplot of some historical substance to the beguiling love story that anchors the movie.

And as these two lives become intertwined, Russell and Ulrich bring a charming, earnest chemistry to the growing bond between Livy and Ray.

“The Magic of Ordinary Days” may be slight, quiet and modestly told. But it is in the end a sweetly affecting, emotionally insightful little film with a big heart.

And given the sorry state of the network TV movie, that’s almost magical.