Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas 

Director: Lasse Hallstrom

Writer(s): Jamie Linden, Nicholas Sparks (novel)

Cinematography: Terry Stacey

Original Score:Deborah Lurie

Running Time: 105 Mins.

Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, he behind The Notebook and forthcoming Miley Cyrus starrer The Last Song, Dear John is pretty much a sure-fire schmaltz-fest, not that this automatically marks it out as bad rather it suggests that the cinematic experience of Dear John is bound to involve long-distance romance, two “gorgeous” actors that are flirting with the A-List and a multitude of scenes set against the sunset with a side order of passionate kissing in the rain. Expect all of this and you will most likely not be disappointed by the outcome, Tatum and Seyfried glower when they are together and mope with all the angsty yearning you could hope for when apart, usually whilst writing the letters upon which the film’s title suggests.

The problem is that it takes something of a miracle combination to make a story like this truly fly and transcend beyond its generic pitfalls, the leads are good-looking enough and make for a realistic couple but their relationship is shown in such a bleak light with little time for respite from misery and the strain of being apart. This is the mood that ends up overshadowing the whole production meaning that Dear John ends up a much more bleak an experience than necessary to tell such a story, unrequited love is hardly a subject matter worthy of party and celebration but there needed to be a lightness in parts to alleviate the depression, usually this would come from either the lead’s charm or the support characters, on this occasion though both are lacking.

Channing Tatum is a cracking actor, see Fighting for evidence of this, but he is also a man who it would seem takes himself far too seriously in matrial crying out for a little more charm and a little less self-importance (Step Up!) and is desperately in need of a sense of humour,something that is once again lost here and leaves us wondering why John (Tatum) would fall for Savanah, though Seyfried plays Savanah as a deeply cringe-worthy do-gooder both prove equally irritating. Thankfully the thrust of the story will likely hold your interest even if the bland leads don’t, and the myriad of side plots dealing with death, cancer and autism (yes it is THAT heavy) are thankfully interesting if a little hammered-home, Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas are both great as respectively John’s father and Savanah’s best friend.

You will be unsurprised to learn that before the credits roll there is death(s), more unrequited love and a cringe-worthy closing shot with one too many unbelievably good turns done, it’s just a shame that a sense of enjoyment couldn’t be found to suggest that life and love are about more than just yearning for the one you love and painful goodbyes, though given that above Dear John’s poster title the words “from the producers of Twilight” appear you really should know where this was going all along!

VERDICT

If an all too heavy, and heavy-handed, tale about unrequited love starring two hot young leads is what you expected, Dear John delivers… and then some, though whether that is a good thing or not will likely depend on your tendencies for romanyic weepies that take themselves a little too seriously when more charm and less angst would improve the experience substantially.

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