‘Dear John’ Review

26 May

Dear John

Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried

Director: Lasse Hallstrom

The books of Nicholas Sparks are getting the film treatment quite often these days.  Dear John is just another film product based on the words written by Sparks. 

The film tells the story of John Tyree (Channing Tatum), an army soldier who meets the girl of his dreams while on a two-week leave.  After jumping off a pier to save Savannah’s (Amanda Seyfried) purse, they become friendly and strike up an almost instantaneous bond.

As they spend the remainder of John’s leave together, they promise one another that after the end of John’s one year tour duty that they will be together again.  Unfortunately, a few months later the tragic events of September 11, 2001 took place and John, along with the rest of his platoon, decide to re-enlist for another two years.  John, stationed overseas, is able to come home for a weekend to see Savannah and he informs her of his decision.  She is heartbroken and can’t understand why John would choose the army over her.

Over the course of their relationship, they always stayed close by writing each other letters.  From the first time they were separated, they formed an even tighter bond by reliving, through personal written words, what had been going on in their lives.  Not having heard from her in quite some time, John became worried when the letters stopped.  Then one day he received what would be the worst letter of all from Savannah.

John continued his army life, even though he had been shot and had lost his father.  He crossed paths with Savannah many years later and learned the reasons behind the last letter he ever received from her.  He wanted answers and she was not prepared to rehash the details that had been so devastating to her from years prior.  Distance and time can separate people in the physical sense, but the love the two shared could never truly disappear.

I enjoyed the film, but I expected more.  I read the book and like many books that are made into films, the book was better.  The timing of the film was a little off for me.  Certain scenes moved too slowly (anything with the army) and then certain scenes moved too fast (the John and Savannah relationship).  I realize that a huge part of the book/film is the separation between the two characters, but as a viewer, I could care less about John’s time in the army.  The first half of the movie built the relationship, but the second half was almost strictly devoted to John’s army life and that slowed the movie’s pace down considerably.

Tatum and Seyfried worked very well off of one another in this film.  I really liked watching Tatum tackle the emotional scenes; he definitely impressed me.  However, he has a tendency to mumble a bit and there were a couple of scenes that I struggled to understand what he was saying.  I would have liked to see more scenes with the couple in the first half of the movie. 

I was actually surprised at the lack of screen time for Seyfried in this film.  The book version had more scenes with her…and with her and the character of John.  The lack of time onscreen as a couple led to the viewer needing to believe in the bond between the two after such a short period of time.  The book version gave more scenes of them together and in different settings than what was shown in the film.

There were also some great supporting performances in this film.  Richard Jenkins plays John’s father, a man who has an affinity for coin collecting, but also is possibly struggling with a form of autism.  Henry Thomas and Braeden Reed round out the cast as a father and son who share a close relationship with Savannah.  Reed himself, along with his character, suffer from autism.  There is an especially beautiful piece on the DVD extras that chronicles how Reed was able to tackle this role and how it changed him and those around him.

After having read the book, I knew that the ending had a strong chance of being changed if made into a film version.  I was right.  Moviegoers, for the most part, like to see their main characters live happily ever after and the book version wouldn’t have satisfied viewers.  The extras on the DVD show an alternate ending that matched what was in the book.  Even though I dislike endings being changed from one medium to another, I can totally understand why a producer or studio would feel the need to go with the ending that left viewers feeling positive.

Finally, I loved the main song played throughout the film.  Paperweight by Joshua Radin and Schuyler Fisk is one of my favorite songs.  It was released many years ago, so it was a surprising bonus to hear during the John/Savannah scenes.  Fisk has a beautiful voice and combined with Radin, another great musician, it was a perfect song.


2 Responses to “‘Dear John’ Review”

  1. writerdood May 26, 2010 at 1:18 pm #

    It looks and sounds like it’s depressing.
    I’m not sure I want to see this.
    Without spoiling the ending, can you say whether it end on a high note or a low note?

    • Carrie May 26, 2010 at 2:14 pm #

      It ends on a positive note, but there are tear-jerker moments throughout. The relationship between John & Savannah is cute and romantic, but a bigger part of the story is their separation. It definitely has its depressing moments, but the overall story is not supposed to be depressing. It’s about choices and responsibilities and love.

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