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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Christmas in Conway is not your typical family holiday movie, thanks to a very emotional story about a husband's quest to give his dying wife a one-of-a-kind gift while he tries to come to terms with her circumstance. The movie does not shy away from realistic end-of-life issues, and Suzy's progressive frailty and sickness (she vomits a couple of times and resists eating or drinking) is heartrending, to say the least. As for her husband, his feelings of helplessness and resentment toward their situation cause him to lash out at others and take a toll on his wife as well. Expect to see a lot of affection between husband and wife that only once brushes against sexuality (he mentions "getting excited" after kissing). Obviously this kind of weighty content requires a certain sturdy viewership, so kids are out and sensitive teens should approach with caution. If you watch, be sure to keep a box of tissues handy; you'll need it as you watch these two acclaimed actors (Andy Garcia and Mary-Louise Parker) explore the depth of love and devotion.
What's the story?
CHRISTMAS IN CONWAY stars Mandy Moore as Natalie, a hospice nurse who moves into the Mayor household to help care for an ailing Suzy (Mary-Louise Parker) when her husband, Duncan (Andy Garcia), brings her home from the hospital. As Suzy's condition deteriorates, a resentful Duncan struggles to face the inevitable, eventually devoting his attention to fulfilling a special wish of hers. With time working against him and mounting obstacles, Duncan must come to terms with his bitter reality to complete his one-of-a-kind gift for Suzy. The movie also stars Cheri Oteri as the Mayors' petulant neighbor, Gayle, and Riley Smith as Tommy, a well-meaning handyman who lends a hand to Duncan's cause.
Is it any good?
Christmas in Conway is a poignant tribute to love that endures the best and worst of life. Mesmerizing performances by both Parker and Garcia transform what could have been a trite script into something truly heartfelt, and Moore holds her own between these Hollywood heavyweights as the compassionate caregiver to both Suzy and, in a different sense, Duncan. Just as impressive is how these talented actors incorporate moments of levity into such an affecting story, offsetting the sadness with fiery exchanges between Duncan and his irksome, self-absorbed nemesis played aptly by Oteri.
Contrary to the tradition of most holiday dramas, this movie likely won't inspire you to put up decorations, bake cookies for Santa, or wrap a bunch of presents. In fact, it turns your focus away from these material trappings of the holidays and suggests you embrace the intangible gifts: spending time with loved ones, forgiving old grudges, and giving of yourself for others' sake. These messages may get pushed aside in holiday hustle and bustle, but Christmas in Conway aims to change that with its touching tale of love.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dealing with grief. Have you ever lost someone close to you? What favorite memories can you recall from times together? How do you keep these alive?
A recurring theme in this movie concerns forgiveness and redemption. Why is it hard to forgive people who have wronged us in the past? What does it take to move past that hurt?
Teens: What is this movie's target audience? What, if any, of its content can apply to your age group? Does it present a realistic example of love and marriage?
Why do you think this movie is set during the holidays? Does the timing make it any more poignant than it otherwise would be? Does it offer any "glad tidings" of sorts?
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