Emma Moriarty (Sally Field) arrives in the small town of Eunice, Arizona, with her twelve-year-old son Jake (Corey Haim) and rents a ranch on the edge of the community. It takes quite a while to fix the place up, but neither she nor her son are afraid of hard work. The problem is that the bank won't give her a loan to start a business boarding and training horses. The people around these parts don't look kindly upon a woman in such a role.

The only Eunice citizen who seems able to understand Emma's dreams is Murphy Jones (James Garner), a widower who runs the local drugstore and soda fountain. He is the town's oddball — a grandfather who plays a fiddle in a band, owns a 1927 Studebaker, and plasters "No Nukes" and "Re-Forest America" stickers on his car.

Murphy gives Jake a job and after purchasing a horse, sends him to Emma to board and train. Once he spreads the word, she is in business. Just when they are beginning to take a real liking to each other, Bobby Jack (Brian Kerwin) arrives. He is Emma's former husband, a handsome roustabout who has never grown up. Bobby Jack wants to get back together with Emma and Jake; she needs another hand and puts him to work.

Martin Ritt directs Murphy's Romance softly and tenderly. The love affair that blossoms between Emma and Murphy grows in small increments. A wonderful meal here, a bingo game there, laughs over bridge, and pleasure at a dance. James Garner's performance is relaxed, witty, and warm. Sally Field is good as Emma, the independent woman role she has played many times before. Brian Kerwin is just right as the gamy and irresponsible Bobby Jack, and Corey Haim does well as his sensitive son. Murphy's Romance meanders its way to a delightful finale. The pleasures come in savoring Murphy's slow and easy moves.