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A Walk to Remember (2002)
Deeper and deeper
I first saw this movie when it came out, and I remember enjoying it as a nice, romantic "weepie" (a kind of movie I'm not averse too on occasion, although I can't watch the Lifetime network for more than 30 seconds at a time without reaching for the airsickness bag).
Then by accident I caught the last hour of the movie on late-night TV about three months ago, and I noticed that, hmm, there seemed to be a bit more going on than just a nice (very nice), heart-breaking love story. In particular, and in contrast to standard Hollywood fare, redemption and forgiveness were in the air. The most obvious examples involve Jamie and Landon, the two main characters; Landon treats Jamie badly, then redeems himself through his efforts in preparing the school plan, tutoring, and confronting Jamie with his feelings for her at school (and don't forget the pink sweater!). At this point, Jamie forgives him. Likewise, Jamie apologizes for not telling Landon earlier about her illness, and he forgives her. Landon's father eventually redeems himself for leaving his family by paying for Jamie's home-care, and Landon forgives him in a scene that, even after a dozen viewings, still "gets me". Landon's ex-girlfriend redeems herself for the hateful flyers she made of Jamie by apologizing to Landon, who forgives her. Etc. Etc.
As luck would have it, I saw the whole film a few days later (thank you, TBS), and noticed other things: how Landon's parents' love for him was so evident, albeit off the screen; how Landon's friends were more than just the evil popular types; how funny Eric is; and how the teenagers in general, rather than stereotypes, round out into plausible characters that I recognize from my own adolescence.
I was well and truly hooked at that point, bought the DVD, and have watched it, if not obsessively, then at least more often than I can say I've watched any other movie. It is so refreshing to see a movie that deals with big issues soberly, but lightly, in the process leaving me simultaneously sad, uplifted and determined to be better than I am.
I know the film was panned when it was released, and this is a great shame, because this is a film whose pleasures exist at many levels, if you let yourself watch the film itself rather than watch the film stereotype. Roger Ebert, who is about the only movie critic I can take seriously anymore, did "get it", though, and more power to him.