How often do we look at a movie poster or watch a trailer and jump to a conclusion of how the movie will be? I’m shallow enough to admit that every trailer or poster I see forces my feelings in one direction or another. When I saw the movie poster for Dear John months before the movie was set for release I believe my eyes couldn’t roll back far enough. Channing Tatum (GI Joe) starring in new movie based on the “best selling novel” by Nicolas Sparks (The Notebook). Uhg, perfect.
Now I know that I am prone to this instinctual reaction to save myself from wasting two hours of my life from banal torture, so I decided to watch with fresh eyes and not worry about how situation the plot may be. Well, I was surprised. When I saw that Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) would have a supporting role, I was actually interested in seeing this film.
Admitting to my peers that I was going to this film was probably the hardest thing I had to swallow in my experience of reviewing it. When I got to the screening the energy in the theater was like that of a premier for a long awaited scifi action blockbuster. This female heavy audience was excited. They were dying to see Channing walking on the beach with his shirt off and lose themselves in the love story. They knew what they were coming to see, much like I had my feelings of what was to come.
The movie opens with a scene where John Tyree (Tatum) has just been shot while on a mission. His voice over is reading a letter he has written to someone he loves back home. It was a little too perfect of a setting but I couldn’t help but notice I was drawn in. Lasse Hallstrom’s directing style tends to be to soft for the dangers of military battles and jihadist conflicts but is just right for the love story that unfolds. In North Carolina, John meets Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) while on leave. The attraction between the two characters is quick and very apparent. It’s not hard for one to understand why John falls in love with Savannah. Her beauty, grace and comforting nature are all openly invited to John. Casting could not have been more perfect in this film. Seyfriend has always had an ability to dive into a character and embody it to the point that you believe her to be naturally of that personality. Tatum has a little more difficulty in this film. He plays a character that is in transition and is trying to find the person he is meant to be. This is more than likely better described in the book but can come across in the movie that Tatum is constantly lost, a difficult role to pull off. It’s not until you see Tatum paired up with Richard Jenkins, who plays John Tyree’s father, that you begin to understand John’s obscure personality. Jenkins portrayal of John’s autistic father is spot on. The chemistry between the two characters gives the whole story a supporting foundation that would almost seem too flimsy.
As John and Savannah two week romance serves as the starting point to a long distant relationship that seems to have no end. Their letters to each other give one another strength and prolong their feelings that probably would have dwindled with time. Sprinkled with the events of 9/11, autism and being torn between love and personal duty, this film has plenty of tension to keep those who enjoy a romantic epic enthralled.