By: Addison Wylie
Ever since A Walk To Remember and The Notebook hit theatres and touched the hearts of many across the world, Hollywood has been tapping into every one of Nicholas Sparks’ books and adapting them for the screen. The latest film that has received this treatment is the seemingly schmaltzy teen romance Dear John.
Dear John stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried – two actors who haven’t impressed me as far as their filmographies go – and a screenwriter, Jamie Linden – who hasn’t had much experience with writing screenplays (the last screenplay he penned was the one accompanying We Are Marshall).
I severely had my doubts when entering the theatre because there’s a tendency with these movies to have a hard time balancing drama with young actors while making an audience feel good. However, during the screening of Dear John, I was taken in and felt involved with the movie and by the end, I was blown away and extremely surprised with the film, all in a very positive way.
John (played by Channing Tatum) is visiting home while on leave and living with his isolated father (played by Richard Jenkins). Between surfing and admiring the countryside, John meets a young girl at the beach named Savannah (played by Amanda Seyfried).
John and Savannah quickly get acquainted with one another and find out more about each other while growing romantically attached over the next few weeks. When John has to return to the army to serve his term, John and Savannah promise to write each other everyday. They must maintain a long distance relationship but these letters will make the situation feel like their still beside each other. However, both parties were unaware of what the future will hold such as tragic events like 9/11 which will put John’s military position as well as the long distance relationship in peril.
With the mention of 9/11 above, the film does not dance around tragic subjects. Linden’s script isn’t afraid to look fearful situations in the face and intertwine a young, innocent relationship with catastrophic global events. This made me, as an audience member, satisfied because the film maintained a very “real” feel to the story.
The dialogue isn’t forced and flows nicely off the lips of both leading players as well as the supporting characters. The director, Lasse Hallström, along with Linden’s script is able to balance the romantic elements as well as the dramatic elements effectively while making each character three-dimensional and fully developed. As well as the strong direction and screenplay, Hallström is able to covey his vision effectively and capture wonderful, well lit shots with the help of his camera crew. Scenes in the father’s office as well as night scenes on the beach especially stand out as some strong cinematography; the light plays really well through windows and the moonlight on the actors’ faces set a very comfortable mood. Extremely strong technical work is demonstrated throughout.
With the mention of the strong work provided by the film’s crew, the acting is superb as well. Before, I thought Channing Tatum was only cast in movies to show off his chest and do backflips. Here, he shows naysayers – like I – that he’s more than muscles and gymnastics.
Tatum takes the character of John and constructs a sensitive side to his already tough persona demonstrated in previous films. The audience is able to connect to feeling alone or betrayed through the emotional roller-coaster Tatum provides. Additionally, Amanda Seyfried does a stellar job playing opposite Tatum in an innocent, caring role. She also provides an emotional roller-coaster that takes us through different degrees to which an audience can easily adapt to. Both emotional journeys play extremely well off one another and the chemistry Tatum and Seyfried create is both convincing and alluring.
Last but not least, Richard Jenkins steals every scene he appears in. As John’s confined father, Jenkins is given little dialogue to create a convincing character. He not only uses every subtle moment he can get to create a character but the subtle mannerisms Jenkins provides fully seals the deal to producing an effective, unique father figure and he further proves that he is one of the best actors working today.
Dear John was a movie that I thought I had pinned down and instead, I got the carpet pulled out from under me. The movie provides an effective story, great performances under the supervision of a vivid director and all of the cast and crew certainly know how to tell an effective love story with unique twists all the way to the end. It’s a perfect mature story of love, longing, and the trials and tribulations a relationship goes through and, thus, making this a film to remember eternally.