Christmas in Conway
Produced By: Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
It's Christmas time! That means it's time for the folks at the Hallmark Hall of Fame to bring us a tear-jerker movie to celebrate the meaning of Christmas. This year's addition to the sixty years of Hallmark Hall of Fame films: Christmas in Conway.
Christmas in Conway stars Mandy Moore as Natalie, a woman who finds herself struggling in her own home and love life, but finds perfect helping the terminally ill as a hospice nurse. Her latest assignment has her traveling an hour from her home to stay in Conway, South Carolina with the Mayors. Suzy Mayor (Mary Louise Parker) is dying of cancer and wants to spend the rest of her days at home with her husband Duncan (Andy Garcia). Duncan is a bit on the gruff side, in denial about his wife's worsening condition and his ability to care for her.
Known as a bit of a grump around just about everyone in the neighborhood, especially his nosey neighbor Gayle (Cheri Oteri), Natalie notices that Duncan turns into a sweet romantic around his wife. Stuck in a relationship that doesn't quite feel right, watching Duncan and his wife interact gives Natalie tips on what a real loving relationship should be like. Meanwhile, Duncan tries to find a way to ease his pain while giving his wife everything she could ever wish for to make her final days complete.
An off-handed comment about the day they were engaged gives Duncan an idea. He wants to recreate that moment for his wife. Unfortunately she is too sick to travel to the closest amusement park to relive their special ride on the Ferris Wheel...but what if he could bring the ride to her? The odds are against him, but with some help from some surprising - and sometimes unwanted - places, Duncan might just accomplish his goal in time for his wife to enjoy that one special last moment with the man she loves.
Is this movie another tear-jerker? Well, sure it is - it's what the Hallmark Hall of Fame does best - but it's also a life lesson, something else that the Hallmark Hall of Fame does quite well. In this movie, we learn many things, like not judging a book by its cover when we look at Duncan and at Tommy (Riley Smith), a successful landscaper with a troubled past who was set on the right path by Suzy years ago. Viewers, alongside Natalie, also learn what true love is all about in the never-ending-romance that is the marriage of Duncan and Suzy Mayor.
I loved that Christmas in Conway didn't try to sugarcoat what cancer patients go through in the final stages of their lives. No, they didn't get graphic with things, but they made it very clear that terminally ill cancer patients have up and down days, often have difficulty eating, tire easily, etc. They also made clear what it takes to be a hospice worker and how special people who become hospice nurses really are.
All of the actors did an excellent job in their roles. Despite finding Andy Garcia's accent to be less than believable, I think he did a stellar job as the hardworking man with a gruff exterior that melts the minute he comes in contact with his wife. Mary Louise Parker was terrific as Suzy - hell, she's played enough dying roles to know how to get the most emotional response from viewers (A Place for Annie, Fried Green Tomatoes, Boys on the Side) - but that's downplaying her acting ability. Mary Louise Parker is a phenomenal actress and I'm a huge fan of her work. This role was made for her and she played it perfectly. Mandy Moore was believable as Natalie, but there was something missing from her performance here. Can't quite put my finger on it...perhaps it was lack of emotion in some seasons. Riley Smith was adorable as Tommy both in looks and in his acting. And Cheri Oteri provided the perfect comic relief needed for such an emotionally driven film.
The acting was great, the storyline was extremely emotional and entirely believable and the lessons taught were perfect for this time of year. Just the right sort of reminder to viewers to cherish the people they have in their lives - the ones who often know them better than they know themselves - because life can often times be way too short and we often take these people for granted until it's too late. Christmas in Conway is a tear-jerker, but one that is uplifting and highly enjoyable.