Christmas in Conway (2013)

December 2, 2013
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. 
 

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)
beginning to blossom 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 in the aftermath of a death 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 was beautiful and the cast was wonderful, all
consummate professionals who put heart and personality into their roles. Somehow
the characters didn’t have a lot of room to grow; this is for two reasons. The story
is told in a limiting timeframe (both figuratively and literally) and the
emphasis is on Duncan coming to terms with the looming darkness his life will
become after Suzy. What cumulates is something both beautiful and a proper
tearjerker. It was a bit underwhelming to realize that all the characters were
more “supports” to the Ferris wheel projects yet that (surprisingly) didn’t diminish
the quality of the storytelling.

Of course, the cast pulls all of this off wonderfully.
Garcia and Parker were special together and I absolutely loved Suzy’s
free-spirit personality. Whether it was the terms of endearment she had for the
people in her life or the grace with which she came to terms with her illness,
Parker played the southern lady nicely. It was fun seeing Mandy Moore in something
again and the progression of her relationship with the Mayors played out to any
viewer’s satisfaction. What really
impresses in this film was its ability to balance its serious side with some
lighthearted moments – it was something to respect and love. 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 over the funny-ness of it all.  Plus all-around, with exception to Duncan’s occasional (understandable) tantrum, it was refreshing to watch a compelling story without so much drama. Uncharacteristic to this brand (Hallmark Hall
of Fame) there were a few technical flubs; the sound mixing was a bit out of place
with some over exaggerated sounds that seemed to “echo,” however it did smooth
itself out before its first commercial break.

Perhaps not my very favorite (I’m still quite hung up on Christmas with Holly!) in the long line
of telefilms that have come before this in this seasonal series, Christmas in Conway is again, another
sweet script that shares the importance of living every day to its fullest and
the pain of letting go. 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…?

13 Comments

  • Ella

    December 2, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this Rissi.
    I missed this movie when it came on last night, but it looked good.

    1. Rissi

      December 3, 2013 at 1:49 am

      You'll be able to catch encore viewings of this one on the Hallmark Channel, Ella; I think either this weekend or next. Hope you like if you see it. :)

    2. Ella

      December 3, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Rissi!

    3. Rissi

      December 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      :)

  • Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com

    December 2, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Sounds like it's ok that I missed this one.

    Great honest review.

    I personally dislike seeing Mary Louise-Parker play a sick person. She does it so well that it makes me sad.

    1. Rissi

      December 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

      It was one of those tearjerkers, Juju. Sweet, yet the characters weren't fleshed out. Thanks for reading!

      Hey, did you see the Red movies? MLP is in those and she's hilarious – despite her character ailing in this movie, I loved her acting (as usual); she did an excellent job.

  • Renee (SteelerGirl83)

    December 4, 2013 at 4:24 am

    I tuned into the last half hour of this one. I know, not really enough to judge but it didn't really grab me, I think the bad accents were throwing me off. I suppose I could have enjoyed it if I had been there from the beginning. My all-time favorite HHoF movie is The Magic of Ordinary Days. What can I say, I'm a sucker for happy endings. :)

    1. Rissi

      December 5, 2013 at 1:08 am

      This wasn't my favorite, Renee but I did think it was really quite good; there were some precious scenes and messages, and I liked Suzy's character. If you have the Hallmark Channel you can catch an encore viewing if you're interested. :)

      Ooo! Yes, I adore The Magic of Ordinary Days, it's high on my favorites list. Ditto; me, too! Love happy endings – are there any other kind!? ;)

  • Christina Jordan

    December 16, 2013 at 4:38 am

    does anyone know the last song that was played at the very end of the movie?

    1. Rissi

      December 17, 2013 at 2:48 am

      The end song (or the one that plays during the credits…?) is the same as the title ('Christmas in Conway') and it's sung by star, Andy Garcia. Hope that answers your question, Christina. :)

    2. Anonymous

      December 15, 2014 at 1:51 am

      No, what is the song at the very end during the ferris wheel part….I'm wondering too but can't find anything online

    3. Rissi

      December 15, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Huh. Not sure then. Hope you two can find it.

      I did see someone name this song also: Top Of The World by Matthew Perryman Jones.

    4. Tazrunner

      December 5, 2015 at 10:50 am

      The song at the end of the movie is titled Top of the World by Matthew Perryman Jones.

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