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DVD Review: Dear John

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Will love survive the distance in this 2010 Nicholas Sparks novel-adapted movie, Dear John? In the film, soldier John Tyree (Channing Tatum) becomes romantic with the sweetly, Southern Savannah Lynne Curtis (Amanda Seyfried)and our country’s involvement in the war in Afghanastan changes their plans for love.

Although I did not read Dear John the novel, I don’t feel like I was in the dark or should have read the book prior. Dear John the film, in the middle of the story rather than the beginning or the end. I liked the “twist” although it took me a little while to realize it was the middle.

The story is about two young people who meet during spring break, only to fall in love with each other before being separated by war. They make a promise to write letters to each other as a diary of their lives apart.

While in Germany John finds out he is being deployed for a second tour in Afghanistan which puts a strain on the relationship and John and Savannah grow further apart in miles and in matters of the heart. The movie follows this couple through highs and lows and real life situations. 

Personally, I love “love.” I like romantic movies and enjoy how the movie, shows the two characters growing close over the two weeks of spring break. They meet each other’s friends, neighbors, and family, spend quality time together and Savannah make John a better person, engaging in charity work. Although their love was sweet and fun, I feel it isn’t realistic enough for them to want to continue a long-distance relationship after such a short time together.

I know true love can occasionally occur within a short period of time, but Dear John seems way too romantic of an idea for the the seriousness that follows. Thankfully, the relationship between the love and the amount of time it takes them to get there doesn’t take away from the movie for me, because I get caught up in the romance and story anyway.

There are many great analogies touched on in the movie’s opening sequence that carry through the entirety of the movie, but the references to coins are the biggest symbolic tools in Dear John. I enjoy how the use of coin symbolism; as a father/son bond, people and how they can be damaged mentally and physically, and how precious coins and people can both be, especially the unique ones. 

Continuing the story, before John and Savannah have to leave each other, the two make, “a promise to tell each other everything, write it all down, don’t leave anything out.” This promise is a means to continue their relationship and vicariously, be a part of each other’s lives while they’re separated. One memory they share about watching the moon keeps them close no matter where they are in the world. I would love to have seen this bit incorporated into the ending.

I really enjoy the cinematography of how the love letters are delivered. This part of the movie seems so true to life and makes me emotional. From excited, to nervous I felt what John felt when he was waiting for letters to arrive. I really like that about <em>Dear John</em>, I become so enthralled in the movie that I empathize with the characters. I’m not sure if this should be attributed to author Nicholas Sparks or the staff who worked on the film, but regardless it was a success.

In my opinion the ending was horrible in Dear John. It didn’t bother me that its wasn’t a happy ending, rather that there just wasn’t any closure whatsoever. I was left with too many questions and it really annoyed me. I literally said, outloud, “That’s it???” And yes, I did watch the movie alone, but I recommend watching with some good girlfriends to cry with, a huge box of tissues to wipe those tears away, and the ability to overlook your disappointment with the ending.

DVD bonus features include: Deleted Scenes, Outttakes, “A Conversation with Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried and Lasse Hallstrom,” “Transforming Charleston,” “Military in Movies: Dear John’s Military Advisors, Mr. Tyree, The Mule, and Benny Dietz,” “The Story of Braeden Reed,” and an alternate ending, (although I’m not really sure it’s any better or worse than the original ending.) 

Though the beginning half of the movie is a great portrayal of how amazing new love can be, there are many moments in the latter half of the movie that really bring conflict and sadness, as life will bring any couple. My heart broke several times at the complex relationships that are portrayed and the struggles that the protagonists have to deal with throughout this film. The message I got from this movie is that real love doesn’t die, is hard and may not always have a storybook ending.

Dear John puts a face on autism, cancer, commitment, loss, love, war, and death, all subjects that tug at the viewers heartstrings. As I am reminded by this movie how hard it is to have a loved one in the war, my heart also goes out to all the families that have to live it each day.

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