A Christmas to Remember
When the hospice agrees to let Suzy Mayor (Mary-Louise Parker) return home to spend her last days they make one proviso, that they get a live in nurse to help take car of her which is how Natalie Springer (Mandy Moore) comes to move in. But Suzy's husband Duncan (Andy Garcia) doesn't want hers or anyone's help and is a complete grouch to everyone except his wife. Wanting to do some thing special for Suzy in her last days Duncan accepts that she is too sick to be taken to the Ferris wheel where he proposed so finds one for sale and plans to erect in the back yard. But Duncan's plans don't go down well with everyone including their neighbour who wants to win the town's Christmas decorated house competition and so goes running to the town's sheriff to complain. Duncan also has to call on the help of landscape gardener Tommy (Riley Smith) who is a former student of Suzy's and who he doesn't really like but it turns out Tommy and Natalie get on despite her already having a boyfriend in Chicago.
"Christmas in Conway" is built around three things starting with Duncan and Suzy who sadly has come home to die having called time on the chemotherapy. So yes immediately we are in an extremely sentimental area as the gruff Duncan loves his wife so much he wants to do one more thing for his ailing wife before she dies and that it to recreate the night he proposed on a Ferris wheel. So yes we watch as Duncan is desperate to make this happen even if it means building it in his own back yard and his devotion to his wife as she slowly ebbs away is the heart of the movie which you know is going to build to a hugely romantic, and seeing this is a Hallmark movie, picture perfect moment.
But then on top of this we have the more cliche element of Natalie who has a boyfriend who is so focused on business that you know that in truth they are not right for each other as he doesn't understand the importance of what she does. So yes the handsome and good hearted Tommy comes into play in a typically romantic subplot. But then on top of that we have the outright comedy of neighbour Gayle who is so hell bent on having the best dressed house for Christmas that she becomes a comical, over the top pain in the neck.
The thing about all of this is that "Christmas in Conway" could have ended up just another sentimental Hallmark Christmas movie except it features actors who know their way around playing interesting characters. As such we have Andy Garcia who brings comedy to the movie through his cantankerous, abrupt nature yet brings soul to the character as he makes the devotion part of his character very real. At the same time you have Mary-Louise Parker delivering a tender performance as Suzy, facing up to her last days with a calmness which is really sweet. And then there is Mandy Moore who does a nice balancing act of making Natalie good hearted and sweet but like with Garcia a little amusing.
What this all boils down to is that "Christmas in Conway" is a sweet, sentimental Christmas movie which is what you expect from a Hallmark movie. But it has a lot of heart, the right amount of humour and decent actors who actually bring the movie and characters to life in a way which draws you in even though you can predict a Hallmark movie ending within minutes of it starting.