Saturday, 6 March 2010


Roadshow Films
Now Showing

It this were a letter – the communication modus operandi of this and seemingly every other Nicholas Sparks adaptation – then you may very well scribble 'return to sender' across it, for certainly Dear John is not worth the price of a postage stamp.

Indeed, you could write the synopsis of the film on the back of a stamp: Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl have to part, fate and misunderstandings force the pair to break-up, boy and girl come together for emotional finale. That's pretty much the plot for another Sparks adaptation, The Notebook, which has a very large (female) fan base, with characters roughly the same age as those here.

But compared to Dear John, The Notebook is virtually on a par with The Englsih Patient for literary romance set in war time. John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) meet during the summer of 2001, while John is on leave from the US Army's Special Forces and Savannah's home from college. Over the course of two weeks they fall in love. When summer ends they promise to write to each other until they can be together again.

But in September the world is changed forever and John re-enlists. The wait, and the fear of losing John, seems too great for Savannah and she eventually sends him a real 'Dear John' letter, ending their affair. Much emotional hand wringing ensues, or it would if the film had been invested with any real passion, for as photogenic as Tatum and Seyfried are, they're rather bland. And so is the film.

Dear John was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who came to the world's attention with the Swedish film, My Life As A Dog (1985), and made one of my favourite films of the '90s, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993). He's had a mixed bag of films since then, The Cider House Rules (1999) and Chocolat (2000) his most successful, both nominated for Best Picture Oscars. Hallstrom should know better, as should the people who willingly go to see Dear John.

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