Climbing peaks of emotional heartbreaks balancing against the beautiful still moments of a Christmas theme is a risk. Fortunately, this is one film that pulls it off.
Christmas in Conway (2013) Hallmark Hall of Fame TV Film
Years ago, as a young college kid, Duncan Mayor (Andy Garcia) proposed to his wife on a Ferris wheel… and it was magical. Many years since and the couple has been happy making a home in their small town. This Christmas is different. Suzy (Mary Louise-Parker) has been battling cancer it’s no longer a matter of if, it’s now a waiting game. Caring for his wife is Duncan’s whole world and in order to make her days special, he undertakes the impossible; he begins building a Ferris wheel in his back yard. The most unexpected gifts come of this Christmas. Including the young in-home nurse, Natalie (Mandy Moore) opening to new possibilities; and it’s in these gifts that Duncan wants the season to be his wife’s most special.
On a normal day, films that are expressly about good-byes and the turmoil that awaits loved ones is not something I’d be up for; particularly when it’s set against the Christmas season! Luckily, I’ll overlook that in favor of this touching scenario. Instead of being a hindrance, the script is beautiful and the cast is wonderful. All are consummate professionals who put heart into these roles. Somehow the characters don’t have a lot of room to grow; this is for two reasons. The story has a limiting timeframe (both figuratively and literally) and the emphasis is on Duncan coming to terms with the looming darkness. What cumulates is something both beautiful and a proper tearjerker. It’s a bit underwhelming to realize that all the characters are more “supports” to the Ferris wheel projects. Surprisingly, this doesn’t diminish the quality of the storytelling. Of course, the cast pulls all of this off wonderfully.
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Garcia and Parker were special together and I absolutely loved Suzy’s free-spirit personality. Whether it’s the terms of endearment she has for the people in her life or the grace with which she came to terms with her illness Parker plays her well. It’s fun seeing Mandy Moore in something again. The progression of her relationship with the Mayors plays out to any viewer’s satisfaction. What really impresses is how this balances its serious side with some lighthearted moments. There are the poignant moments involving Suzy, both with Duncan and even Natalie and Suzy, then a subplot involving a neighborhood decorating tradition which suitably lightens the mood and makes us giggle.
Uncharacteristic to this brand (Hallmark Hall of Fame) there’s a few technical flubs; the sound mixing is a bit out of place with some over exaggerated sounds that “echo,” however it does smooth out at the first commercial break. Perhaps not my very favorite (I’m still quite hung up on Christmas with Holly!) in this long line, Christmas in Conway again shares the importance of living every day to its fullest. There are some nice parallels (romances that end and begin to blossom) and lessons of forgiveness.
What about you, readers! Did you catch this film – if so, what’d you think? What’s your favorite Hallmark Hall of Fame…?