Natalie is a hospice nurse who lives in Florence, SC. Her boyfriend (either Bob or Brian) has gotten a great job in Chicago and he wants her to come up and visit soon. But after she takes him to the airport, Natalie must go to Conway, 60 miles from home, to take care of Suzy, who is terminal and was only allowed to come home from the hospital if she had a home care nurse.
When Natalie arrives, next-door neighbor Gayle is determined to win the neighborhood Christmas decoration contest, and she is being helped by Tommy, who has a college degree but is a landscaper. Suzy's husband Duncan doesn't want a nurse, saying he can take care of her himself, but Natalie reminds him that she can only be at home with a nurse. Besides, Duncan is a contractor, though we never see him working for anyone else. If he takes time off work for Natalie, how can he pay the bills?
Suzy is sweet and determined to do as much as possible, but she has given up on chemotherapy, so beating the cancer is no longer an option. But she isn't exactly giving up, and Natalie is so helpful. Duncan resists any attempt by anyone else to help him, particularly Tommy, who he hates for some reason. Duncan seems like a cranky old man to everyone else, but he is very loving to Suzy, and inside the house even shows the emotions he is trying to hide when anyone else is around. He doesn't know how he will make it without her.
Duncan wants to take Suzy to Myrtle Beach so they can relive the day he proposed on a ferris wheel there. Natalie thinks it's not a good idea to drive Suzy so far, and she's right. Suzy gets sick and needs to go home. There is another way: Duncan goes to Family Kingdom and asks how he can get a ferris wheel of his own. The mechanic, who has to test the rides during the off-season, reluctantly tells him about Henry near Moncks Corner.
It's beginning to look like this ferris wheel fantasy will never happen. Henry is a wacko who runs a junkyard and carries a gun which he will use on anyone who tries to steal from him. And no, that broken-down ferris wheel is NOT for sale.
But one day a truck shows up with Henry and his partners Lonnie and either Bob or Brian. All they do is unload. Duncan will have to do the rest, and Henry provides what directions he has. It seems he and his partners used to travel around putting together rides for carnivals, but Henry had his own tragedy that made him bitter. But everything is about to fall into place. Duncan needs help and Tommy is there, if he can just get over whatever is bothering him.
Meanwhile, Suzy is going downhill, though she tries to remain positive, and Natalie remains helpful. Her relationship is in trouble, but I think Natalie likes Tommy.
As the ferris wheel goes up, the conceited Gayle objects to this monstrosity in her posh neighborhood and runs to her brother the sheriff. Can this fantasy really happen? Will Suzy even make it if it does?
Mary Louise Parker is excellent. She doesn't really seem sick (she even has her hair) but it's just that her character is so strong and won't give up. And no matter what, she shows concern for others.
I didn't recognize Andy Garcia, though he looks like Mitt Romney in this. Garcia is nothing like his past roles, but he is very good here, providing the perfect balance between bitter curmudgeon and loving but sad husband.
Mandy Moore is sweet and caring, and determined to do whatever is necessary.
Riley Smith is likable as Tommy.
I didn't know Cheri Oteri but I sort of remember her from "Saturday Night Live" prime-time specials and clips. She provides most of the desperately needed humor.
Mark Jeffrey Miller also stands out and gives us a few more laughs, showing a mix of bitterness and caring as the former carnival worker.
I have only one complaint. They obviously didn't film this movie in the real towns. The movie was set in Conway and it has the Spanish moss that helps make the town so attractive. As the couple rode to Myrtle Beach, they crossed an attractive bridge which I've never seen. Conway has a real nice bridge they should have used. The Riverwalk was mentioned but I don't think the real one was shown, because I have visited it for the past six years and it didn't look quite like that. I have passed Family Kingdom amusement park in Myrtle Beach many times and may have gone there (whatever it was called then) as a child nearly fifty years ago. I don't think that was the real Family Kingdom either. And Moncks Corner is not as close to Conway as they made it look, and nowhere near a freeway.
This is a family movie, but it doesn't shy away from the reality of terminal illness.
But this is a worthy effort for the Hallmark Hall of Fame.