A genuinely heart-warming weepie, this kosher romantic drama explores some interesting aspect of orthodox Judaism while remaining accessible to viewers from all backgrounds.
Thirtysomething cardiologist Jake (Kaufman) lives a freewheeling bachelor's life that is in sharp contrast to the staid life led by his rabbi brother, Benjamin (David Rossmer).
Having lost touch with his sibling, Jake is shocked to hear of his sudden death. At the funeral, Jake learns that according to orthodox Jewish law he is required to marry Benjamin's widow, Leah (Ambrose), or participate in a ceremony denouncing his brother.
Guilt-ridden because he allowed himself to grow apart from Benjamin, Jake impulsively refuses to take part in the ceremony and convinces Leah to move in with him on a strictly platonic basis; much to the annoyance of his girlfriend Carol (Christy Pusz).
Struggling with her new life but harboring ambitions to attend college, Leah finds herself drawn to Jake. As the two spend more and more time together loves blossoms, but their very different beliefs threaten to derail the burgeoning romance.
Produced by Ricki Lake, who also makes a cameo as a rather unorthodox rabbi, this charming tale benefits from a likeable cast; in particular Six Feet Under star Ambrose who imbues Leah with a quiet dignity that ensures her demure religious devotion never feels cloying or weak-willed.
While the love story at the heart of this Hallmark movie is reassuringly conventional, the questions it raises about faith, tolerance, compromise and understanding are extremely pertinent, making Loving Leah a surprisingly satisfying watch that avoids hackneyed clichés.
Also, look out for an appearance from American Pie star Natasha Lyonne, back on her feet after a much publicised spell in rehab. She joins a cast that includes Curb Your Enthusiasm star Susie Essman, who causes no end of chaos as Leah's extremely demanding mother. Oy vey!