Who’s In It: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, Scott Porter
The Basics: Nicholas Sparks strikes again! The king of the weepie tragic romance novel (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember) is back, and this time he’s putting Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried through the emotional wringer as John and Savannah, two crazy kids who fall in love one day on the beach and promise to stay together forever. Only John’s on a short leave from the Army Special Forces. And 9/11 is about to happen. Between the romance and the separation and John’s rocky relationship with his autistic, coin-collecting dad (played by the incomparable Richard Jenkins), you’re going to need tissue. Lots of it.
What’s The Deal: Director Lasse Hallström guides the usual Sparks dramarama to its full tear-jerking potential, but the ordeal of waiting for John and Savannah’s love to take its inevitable tragic turn is as slow and torturous as waiting for a letter to arrive via snail mail from a lover halfway across the world. Part of the problem is that we never get a clear sense of why these two fall in love to begin with, other than a the fact that they’re both inhumanly gorgeous and they’re textbook opposites (he’s a troubled ex-bad boy, she’s the nicest girl in South Carolina). And let’s face it: Tatum and Seyfried are no Gosling and McAdams. By the time he’s back on soldier duty and she’s furrowing her brows at the moon, trouble brews so fast you question if these kids are really meant to be, or if this fairy tale romance is going to turn out to be just as painful and devastating as long-distance relationships often do in real life.
A Theoretical Letter That Sums It All Up:
I know you’re overseas fighting terrorists and all (by the way, you look sooooo cute in uniform), and we’ve been writing moony love letters to each other for months now while I go to college and ride horses and visit your weird dad who collects old coins. But, see, I’ve kinda sorta realized that this long-distance thing is hard, although I can’t quite verbalize why. (It’s not my fault! I’m not a fully formed character!) So even though I totally fell in love at first sight with your abs during spring break, and we kissed in the rain, frolicked in the sand, etc., those promises we made to each other to stay together no matter what? Well, I’m not so sure everything’s going to work out happily ever after like we planned.
But keep in touch, okay?
The Relationship That You’ll Pull Out The Hankies For: The sad, awkward bond between John and his father. Dear John may be a love story about the toll war takes on relationships back home, but it’s far more powerful when it focuses on the unspoken, anguished emotion between Richard Jenkins and Channing Tatum (who deserves credit for carrying the film and emoting his pretty face off to the best of his abilities).
Who Comes Off Looking Like A Jerk: Savannah, despite Amanda Seyfried’s best efforts. She starts off as an interesting and vivacious young co-ed, but somewhere along the way Sparks and screenwriter Jamie Linden turn her into a fickle, complainy homemaker type whose world revolves around the men in her life. So much for independent womanhood.
And Keep An Eye Out For: The kid from E.T. Yeah, he’s been working steadily since the ‘80s, but Henry Thomas will always be Elliott in my mind. Even when he’s pushing 40.