With its latest production, "Christmas in Conway," the Hallmark Hall of Fame reaches back to its emotional roots and delivers a story that touches our hearts in this holiday season. Andy Garcia, Mary Louise Parker and Mandy Moore lead a strong cast in bringing to life a story of enduring love.
Duncan Mayor (Garcia) and his wife Suzy (Parker) live in Conway, South Carolina. They have been a devoted couple for many years and now Suzy is dying. Natalie Stringer (Moore) is a home care nurse who has been brought in to help take care of Suzy. This is not to Duncan's liking but he has made an agreement with Suzy's doctor to let this happen.
As Suzy gets worse Duncan looks for ways to lift her spirits. One way is to build a Ferris Wheel in their backyard since it was on a Ferris Wheel that he proposed to Suzy. Now if he can only get this done before Suzy dies or before the Sheriff makes him stop construction.
This all sounds pretty depressing and it is in a way. That is why the next door neighbor Gayle (Cheri Oteri) is so important to the story. She provides comic relief as she snoops around trying to figure out just what Duncan is doing. She has been feuding with her neighbors for some time and is determined not to let up even if Suzy is sick.
The drama of the story is draining as Suzy's illness progresses. Still the injection of levity by Oteri's character gives a respite now and then. There is a balance between the silly and the solemn and that is a hard thing to do. Thanks to the talent of the actors and the skill of Director John Kent Harrison it does work.
Garcia is excellent in his role as the grieving Duncan. He fully portrays the swings in moods this type of illness must induce. Mandy Moore is also compassion personified as Natalie. Still it is Parker who is the core of the film. She brings just the right amount of weakness and strength to the role, plus she is the one who captures your heart from beginning to end.
There will be those who will discount this movie as being too cheesy and overly dramatic. Well that's their problem. For most it will be an honest, touching story of love that endures. You will laugh and you will cry during this sweet story, but you will also leave it feeling a bit uplifted.
"Christmas in Conway" is Hallmark Hall of Fame's" best production in some time. Make sure you don't miss it Sunday night, December 1, on ABC at 9PM EST.
Jackie K Cooper