Fans of the film versions of author Nicholas Sparks popular novels will be extremely pleased with this latest adaptation. If you loved "The Notebook," "A Walk To remember" or "Nights In Rodanthe" then you'll really love this! But what really impressed me is that this film is so much more than just a love story or a so-called "chick flick." I'll be the first to admit that I didn't think I would like this film, as it usually isn't my type of thing. However, this movie is so much more than just a "chick-flick," it's also a Father and Son story and the film deals with difficult subjects like autism, cancer, war and 911 with class and grace. The films stars, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried are both captivating in their roles and share an obvious on-screen chemistry. Oscar Nominated actor Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") gives a brilliant performance as Tatum's autistic Father. In fact he practically steals every scene he's in with his quiet and understated performance. The other themes of the film also work well but it is the Father and Son story that resonated with me the most. The film is filled with tender moments and tells a fascinating story that anyone can relate to on any level.
The film begins by introducing us to John Tyree (Tatum), a Special Forces solider home for leave. He's surfing when he meets Savannah, played with heart by Seyfired, a College student home for spring break. The two quickly fall in love and spend all their time together. John is staying with his Father, for whom he has a difficult relationship with. His Father has a hard time communicating with people and spends most of his time cooking lasagna and collecting coins. Savannah's family friend, Tim (Henry Thomas), has an autistic child and Savannah thinks that she recognizes these symptoms in Mr. Tyree. This upsets John but after much thought realizes that it might be true. Savannah is concerned about starting such a serious relationship with someone who was is in the Armed Services and is about to ship out except John will be done with his obligations to the Army in eleventh months and is planning to come home to be with her. He convinces her to wait for him and they begin sending letters back and forth, which only brings them closer as a couple while Savannah is keeping an eye on his Father at home. Everything is going as planned when the unthinkable happens ... September 11th 2001. With the attack on the World Trade Center John has to make a hard decision, keep his promise to Savannah and leave the Army when his time is up or serve his country and his fellow soldiers and re-up for the inevitable war on terror.
Savannah is disappointed by John's decision yet understands and they continue their letters as John goes back to work. Eventually, however, although they see each other from time to time, it's not enough for Savannah and their love cannot take the long distance. John eventually receives a letter from Savannah saying its over and that she has met someone else and is getting married. Shocked and hurt by the news John is distracted and is injured in the war. While laying injured John can only think of one person ... and it's not who you think. Once recovered, John returns home in time to say goodbye to his Father who is now ill and on his deathbed. John eventually confronts Savannah while home to get to the truth of why she broke up with him and the answer will surprise you. Now the two try to find closure to their relationship but cannot deny the love that still exists between them. While things are different and time has marched on there is still a connection between the two and John realizes that there might be one last thing he can do for her before he leaves to go back to the war. What John does next is a selfless gesture that will not only help Savannah but will also save someone else's life. But the question still remains; will John and Savannah ever be able to put the years behind them and reconcile the love that they once had?
For me it was the Father/Son aspect of the story that really worked for and I think a lot of men will be able to relate to that. This film is a love story but about the love between a Father and Son. Of course the other relationship is there between John and Savannah to enjoy as well but I just found the other story so compelling. When you find out the history of John's Father's obsession with coins you begin to understand the strange relationship the two have and anyone can relate to that. Richard Jenkins, who pound for pound is one of the finest character actors around, gives a powerhouse performance, one that will be forgotten by Oscar time next year but shouldn't be as it is a tender and giving performance. Tatum gives a very solid performance as well, one that is surprisingly good coming from the young actor and it maybe his best performance to date. His scene with Jenkins in the hospital towards the end of the film was tremendous and will leave you without a dry eye. It was also nice to see former "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" star Henry Thomas in a very adult role as the mysterious Tim. While Thomas' character should be unlikable to the audience for his actions towards the end of the film, Thomas is able to inject a kind of humanity into the part that makes us feel sympathy for this otherwise unlikable person.
Director Lasse Hallstrom, who has perfected this type of movie before with classics like "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "The Cider House Rules" and "Chocolot," delivers a fascinating and moving picture that will tug on your heart strings. The script by Jamie Linden does skip around a bit but there was a lot of ground to cover and the writer did their best to get it all in. However, no matter how much you enjoy the other aspects of the film, the real story is about the love between John and Savannah. Both actors do an excellent job of getting the urgency of their love across to the audience. Amanda Seyfried, who stars on TV's "Big Love" and has been making quite a name for herself on the big screen in films like "Mama Mia!" and "Jennifer's Body," shows why she is Hollywood's new "it" girl with her star-level performance. She radiates at the same time an innocence and a worldliness that is rare to find in an actress as young as she. But it's the chemistry between Tatum and Seyfried that is electrifying and the real star of the film. While the film is sure to be labeled as a "chick flick" the movie offers much more than that to its audience and I think any guy who takes the risk and sees it will be pleasantly surprised. I'm sure many couples will be headed to the theater next weekend to see it for Valentine's Day and they won't be disappointed as the film makes the perfect date movie. Finally, for all those Nicholas Sparks fans wanting to know if there is a trademark "making love in the rain" scene in this film like there was in "The Notebook" ... the answer is a resounding YES!!!
Dear John is out February 4, 2010.