Rosie and Alex have been best friends since they were 5, so they couldn't possibly be right for one another...or could they? When it comes to love, life and making the right choices, these two are their own worst enemies.
Life changes in an instant for young Mia Hall after a car accident puts her in a coma. During an out-of-body experience, she must decide whether to wake up and live a life far different than she had imagined. The choice is hers if she can go on.
South Carolina US Army Special operations soldier John is on summer leave from his German base, visiting his widowed father. Being gallant on the pier, he befriends college student Savannah, a college student, and her buddies, a terminal father and his angelic son. John falls in love with Savannah, who diagnoses his beloved, gentle but weird father as mildly autistic. He plans not to sign up again, but 9/11 changes that, and she won't wait idly while their friends desperately need help.Written by
Lasse Hallström, the Swedish director who gave us Chocolat (2001), Gilbert Grape (1993) and Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2009) is at it again - making chick flicks for guys. This means, unlike your stereotypical chick flick whose leading man is a hollow beefcakey stud with as much personality as the scenery, here we get a complex beefcakey stud whom the chicks can swoon over whilst the bros say "duuuuude he's cool."
In this case the protagonist is "John" (Channing Tatum) who plays an Army Special Forces character who can kill you with a toothpick but has total control over his emotions. Until, of couse, he meets "Savannah" (Amanda Seyfried) over his 2 week furlough before going back to war.
As you might guess, the story explores the ultimate long distance relationship as John completes his 1 year tour as a soldier while Savannah waits at home. Sounds boring? Well wait, there are complications. John's father is autistic and his mother abandoned them years ago. So John is forced to be the responsible one, but the whole war/love thing throws him out of whack.
Meanwhile Savannah has a few secrets of her own (and I gotta admit I totally didn't see it coming). And on top if it all, 9/11 hits and this forces John to make a decision whether to stay with his platoon and most likely get his butt blown off, or retire once his initial tour is over. Oh, and the movie begins with John getting blasted by gunfire, meaning the story unfolds in a huge flashback leaving us wondering the whole time if John dies or not.
This is a very sentimental flick, much like the other Hallström movies I mentioned, but it doesn't get sappy or predictable. In fact at least 3 plot twists took me by total surprise. And I'm talking like "whoa duuuuude I never saw THAT coming" surprise.
"Dear John" focuses on interpersonal relationships when duty comes into play - and I'm not just talking about duty toward your country (a cleverly woven parallel), but duty to parents, children and those who need help. This is juxtaposed against selfish happiness, or the storybook love. Pay close attention to the characters' choices & sacrifices, and how these choices are based on duty/selflessness rather than "getting the girl". I think that's what makes this a unique romance. Whereas most Hollywood romance flicks focus on the problems of 2 lovers, "Dear John" presents us with an ideal love that is complicated by external loyalties.
The trademark of Hallström movies is some other issue (not just love) driving the characters, and that's why these films aren't sappy or predictable. Another trademark is is use of gorgeous scenery, in this case the beaches of Charleston SC. He achieves a very nostalgic beach feeling, even for those of us who have only been to the beach once or twice in our lives (see also his film "Safe Haven" filmed in Southport, NC).
"Dear John" is a quiet, sentimental film, so don't expect action, car chases & robots. But it delivers a few tricky plot twists, so it's never boring. If you're not familiar with Hallström's style, I'd say it's artistic without being over-the-top artsy. Think of Kieslowsky (Blue, White, Red trilogy) or Wim Wenders (Paris Texas, Wings of Desire) or possibly even Steven Soderbergh (Sex Lies & Videotape, Solaris, Magic Mike) and you'll have a general idea of how this film feels.
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