, the latest Nicholas Sparks book to be cast into a movie, stars Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum as the two star-crossed lovers. Unfortunately, it falls short of its more successful predecessors due to its predictability and lack of real chemistry.
Tatum plays John, a tough brooding military guy on leave from the Middle East in the spring before the Sept. 11 attack. Seyfried plays Savannah, a rich preppy girl with a heart of gold vacationing on the Carolina coast. They meet unexpectedly when John saves her purse from a watery grave and the two swiftly immerse in a two-week whirlwind romance.
John’s stoic and socially inept nature is mostly attributed to growing up with an emotionally challenged father, played wonderfully by Richard Jenkins. When John was younger he didn’t notice his father’s problem and used to enjoy collecting coins with him. Eventually he outgrew that, unlike his father, instead of becoming obsessed with it.
Now that John is older he rarely talks to his father, believing they no longer have anything in common. The father and son relationship is one of the few good aspects of this movie, as it is both interesting to watch and moving to see how it develops as the story unfolds.
John and Savannah are the typical example of a couple where “opposites attract.” While she is building a house for Habitat for Humanity, he is getting into fist fights with boys on the beach. Despite their differences, they fall deeply in love and profess their undying love for each other after just two weeks together.
Unfortunately, because this is based on a Sparks book, it’s easy to figure out that something bad is going to happen to rip these two lovers apart.
The rip comes in the form of the war. John has a year-long tour of duty and Savannah promises to wait for him. While he is away, they write a continuous stream of letters to each other, promising to tell each other everything. As a result, much of this movie is spent with endless montages of the war and reading letters.
Director Lasse Hallström is almost trying to prove their love, which was lackluster to begin with, with this never-ending display of devotion.
Not surprisingly, everything changes when, after Sept. 11, John is suddenly forced to choose between love and duty when the time for re-enlistment rolls around. He chooses duty along with every other man in his squadron. This time the distance proves to be too much for Savannah and she ends their relationship.
This movie contains all the ingredients of a Sparks’ film. Substitute in the war with disapproving parents and you practically have . The staple rainy romantic scenes are there, but minus any tear-jerker moments. Instead of crying, the viewer will feel frustrated at the main character’s erratic decisions. The soundtrack was also misleading, with the beautiful song “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” playing nonstop in the previews but not once during the actual movie.
Tatum and Seyfried both do a commendable job, although Tatum is definitely more eye candy than a good actor. Seyfried, from films as and , does not develop her acting skills any further in this movie, instead spending most of her time moping around for John. They have a strong physical attraction toward each other, but emotionally it falls flat, especially since they have such a short time together.
The war scenes are poorly produced and not very realistic at all. There is one scene where John gets shot entering a building, regardless of being warned not to multiple times. The audience is made to think he is dead but then we see him lying in a hospital bed in the next scene. As a whole, the scene is over-dramatized and highly unnecessary.
Overall, this movie is a decent romantic drama with a few good moments that get muddled down in depressing montages. Their love may not be that believable, but Hallström never stops trying to make it work.
It definitely falls short of early Sparks movie adaptations such as or .