run time: 117 mins
considered: Drama, Romance
director: Michael Hoffman
starring: Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Gerald McRaney, Caroline Goodall, Clarke Peters, Sebastian Arcelus, Jon Tenney, Sean Bridgers, Rob Mello, Hunter Burke, Caroline Hebert, Ian Nelson
movie summary: Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) grew up in a tough love kind of home. His father Tommy (Sean Bridgers) trained all his boys to help distribute drugs to customers and to never question his authority. After years of abuse Dawson decides to take a stand against his old man and moves out. While finding shelter in a garage, the owner of the house wakes him at gun point to question who he is and why he’s there. After realizing Dawson is harmless, Tuck (Gerald McRaney) offers him a place to stay.
One day while pushing his best friend’s car down the street, he catches the eye of a very beautiful girl named Amanda (Liana Liberato). Her attempts to flirt with him go unnoticed so she stages her own car problems to get him to go on a date with her. After he bails on her, she shows up to Tuck’s house to confront Dawson to find out his dad beat him up and he didn’t want to show up on the their date like that. Amanda understands the situation but refuses to give up pursing him until he agrees to a date.
The two begin to see each other and soon become inseparable. They spend every day of their senior year together planning their future which includes filling out college applications. Tuck owns a cabin a few towns over and asks for Dawson to go do some landscaping for a weekend. Amanda can’t stand to be away and goes out to spend the evenings with him. The two go swimming, try to cook dinner together, and sit around the fireplace. Those long spring nights were the best of times for the young couple who never envisioned a day apart.
On the night of their prom, their relationship would be put to the test when Dawson’s father and his two brothers show up to Tuck’s house to beat him within an inch of his life. When Dawson returns home he finds Tuck beaten and bleeding, he grabs a shotgun and heads over to his dad’s house to settle the score. His best friend Bobby (Robby Rasmussen) begs him not to engage in this hostile behaviour but he goes against his friend’s advice and gets into a fist fight with his old man. When the gun gets involved in the altercation, Bobby is shot, and Dawson is arrested.
After turning his father and brothers over to the DEA, Dawson is given a reduced sentence in prison. Amanda vows to see him every day and bring him whatever books or items he could want. After their first meeting Dawson tells Amanda that her father was right and that she needs to move on and hangs up the phone. She refuses to accept his decision to walk away and continues to visit him every day until she finally gives in and leaves him alone.
It would take another 21 years before Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) meet again, in their hometown, to find out neither one of them is over the other.
my thoughts: The very first thing I have to point out about is how many people actually die in this movie. Nicholas Sparks has been known to kill off a main character or subplot character in every single book/movie. Up until this point in his history, he’s only killed off one person. In The Best of Me, he raised his body count to five! I was simply amazed it took that many dead people to tell an unrealistic love story about doomed high school romance filled with heartbreak, drama, and lots of tears. I considered the story to be unrealistic because their young romance was too good to be true. She was from a rich family and he was from a family known for distributing drugs. He was book smart but until he got out his house he was never gonna make it in life. Amanda comes along and is the driving force for him to be a better person. Unfortunately even with his best friend at his side, he fails horribly at this and ends up in prison instead of college.
When we fast forward 21 years, both Dawson and Amanda has grown up but still refuse to move on despite the fact she’s married with kids. Amanda makes the situation really awkward because she doesn’t want to deal with him, yet can’t get over the fact he’s even better looking then when they were teenagers. She’s willing to sacrifice her marriage in an attempt to have one more wonderful weekend with her high school sweetheart. Whether she is happy or not with her current situation there was no need to have an affair, it just sends the wrong message. It builds up hope for both Dawson and the audience. She’s never moved on from him and is willing to leave her husband for him if he stays with her. Both of them are blinded by love that they forget life for one weekend and think that on Monday morning everything will be the same but with a new partner.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I sound like this movie sucked and is unwatchable, it is neither of those actually. I just can’t give you a description of what really happens because it would spoil so many turning points in the story. The whole time I was watching the movie I honestly wished I had a cute girlfriend like Amanda both young and old. Their romance is filled with all the cliché moments that would fill out any romance novel or movie. The on-screen chemistry between Marsden/Monaghan and Bracey/Liberato was amazing. Neither one of them will crack the top spot of my favourite Hollywood couple’s list but would be in the top 10. All four of them put on great performances from both a physical and emotional perspective. No matter what happens they will love the other unconditionally and fight until the bitter end for what they believe in, which is each other.
When Sparks’ first few movies came out there wasn’t a presence of a bad guy, but as the years rolled on he began to add in that element to turn up the drama in each new story. In The Best of Me he adds a whole family of bad guys whose main goal is to corrupt the youngest member of the family, the hero of the story. Both female leads suffer the most throughout the movie, but only because the story calls for it. There will be many parts of the story that will have you reach for a tissue and say awe, while other times you’ll be grasping your breath because you won’t be able to comprehend what you just witnessed. It had just the right among of suspense and drama to lure us into believing everything would be okay at the end.
my final thoughts: Nicholas Sparks’ ninth movie to hit theatres is not his best work but is still better than his original movies. The Best of Me is all about the romance of two souls who seem destined to be together while drama will keep them apart. Girls will want to watch it on the big screen which means the boys will be dragged out with them. This isn’t the worse romantic movie of the year because it keeps you engaged in the back and forth storytelling, while leaving you guessing what will happen next right up until the very end.
my star rating: 7 out 10
imdb: 5.9 out 10
rottentomatoes: 8% out 100%
rogerebert: 2 out 4
For those of you wondering where I would rank The Best of Me on the Top Nicholas Sparks Movie List, I would rank it #5 right behind A Walk to Remember and above The Last Song.