Dear John


Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Written by:Jamie Linden
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona, Cullen Moss
Released: March 4, 2010
Grade: B

If you want to make a tear-jerking romantic drama, you need to speak with Nicholas Sparks and buy the rights to one of his novels.  You'll need a few dollars though as they’ve been very popular over the past decade.  The Notebook (with Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) was comfortably the best Sparks adaptation.  Even I required tissues.  I wasn’t as big a fan of A Walk To Remember, Message In A Bottle and Nights In Rodanthe but I know others who enjoyed them a great deal.

Dear John is the latest Nicholas Sparks novel to reach the big screen and yes, it’s more of the same.  The year is 2001 and John (Tatum) is a U.S. solider fighting overseas who has been granted a few weeks leave.  He’s returned to his father’s home in Charleston and is looking to relax.  Surfing helps him do just that.

A girl by the name of Savannah (Seyfried) then enters the picture.  They meet, they hang out, they fall in love.  It’s a sudden, unexpected romance.  Unfortunately, they are soon to be separated.  John must return to combat and Savannah must head off to college.  Are they destined to be together?  Can they make a long distance relationship work?

Given John has no access to the internet or a phone whilst in combat overseas, he turns to the long-forgotten form of letter writing.  He puts pen to paper and Savannah does the same.  They share their experiences and inner-most thoughts.  Both wait anxiously for the mail each day and both keep every letter they receive.  There’s trouble ahead but I won’t give too much away.  It wouldn’t be a Nicholas Sparks novel without its fair share of drama.

Dear John has weaknesses.  The war scenes felt unrealistic and the continual letter writing back-and-forth was pretty boring.  The ending is rushed too.  This is the part of my review where I insert my standard comments about the difficulty in adapting a book into a two-hour movie.  I appreciate that it’s not easy but I would have a few different choices in this case.

Strangely enough, the film is saved by two of its sub-plots.  The first is that of John’s relationship with his widowed father – played brilliantly by Richard Jenkins (The Visitor).  The second is Savannah’s friendship with a divorced man (Thomas) and his autistic child.  The scenes involving these characters are far more interesting that the one-on-ones between John and Savannah.

Avatar spent seven weeks atop the box-office charts in the United States earlier in this year – the longest consecutive run since Titanic.  It was Dear John who finally knocked it off the top spot last month.  It now has a place in movie history.