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Christmas in Conway (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…?
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  1. Thanks for reviewing this Rissi.
    I missed this movie when it came on last night, but it looked good.

    1. 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. 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. 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.

  3. 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. 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!? ;)

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

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


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