Dear John Review
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Author Nicholas Sparks must be a bit of a downer to be around. After all, the guy spends his days coming up with new ways to make people cry. I can’t imagine that that makes him the kind of guy you’d want to have around at parties. (“So then, after they’re in a terrible car accident, they’ll both go blind and deaf. Despite their undying love for one another, they’ll be unable to find each other again—yet they’ll never forget their life-changing weekend on the beach in Georgia. Forty years later, when he’s dying of cancer and she’s recovering from a massive heart attack, they’ll realize that they were in the same hospital all along. And then he’ll die. So…how about that Super Bowl?”)

But, if you like that sort of thing, you’ll probably want to gather the girls together, load your purse with tissue packets, and head out to see the latest Nicholas Sparks weeper, Dear John—a film that follows a passionate long-distance relationship as it unfolds through a series of long, hand-written letters.

In the spring of 2001, while John Tyree (Channing Tatum) is home on leave, visiting his father (Richard Jenkins) in South Carolina, he meets Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), a sweet Southern girl who’s perfect in every way. John, on the other hand, has a troubled past—but Savannah inspires him to be a better person.

Over their two weeks together, John and Savannah fall in love, promising to write while John returns for his final year of duty. Through those letters, they tell stories and share their lives, all the while looking forward to the time when they can finally be together. But after 9/11, John feels pressured to re-enlist with the rest of his team. Savannah continues to write—until their relationship begins to suffer from their time apart and Savannah’s responsibilities at home.

Like most Nicholas Sparks romances, Dear John was carefully constructed to be as gut-wrenching as humanly possible. In fact, the full plot summary would read like a grocery list of human hardship—everything from war to mental illness (though, as far as I noticed, none of the characters has a beloved pet that dies). It’s definitely overdone and manipulative, but—judging from the sniffles around the theater—it’s also pretty effective.

Meanwhile, John, too, is carefully constructed. He’s the average female’s ideal: chiseled and handsome, strong and a little bit dangerous, yet tender and loving (and he’s great with kids, too!). But while Tatum slightly overdoes the brooding, he’s surprisingly genuine—and often sweet and lovable—in his role.

Still, thanks, in part, to the opening scene (not to mention the fact that it’s based on a Nicholas Sparks novel), the whole film has an underlying feeling of foreboding. Even when John and Savannah are meeting and falling in love, you’ll know that something bad is eventually going to happen—and it will keep you on edge (with the tissues handy) through the entire movie.

Dear John is a bittersweet and melodramatic drama. It was purposely designed to make you sob until you can’t sob anymore—and, at that, it’s quite successful. The characters are generally likeable, and the situations are heartbreaking. If you’re less cynical than I am, you could find yourself caught up in the drama and romance of it all. But for those with a low tolerance for schmaltz, it’s an ill-advised encounter.

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