‘Dear John’ (2010) is a deeply moving romance drama which has been adapted from a novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. It recounts the love of a young soldier for a woman who was left behind when he was sent overseas to a war zone. They continue their relationship at a distance by exchanging letters. Sparks had previously written novels on which a number of other successful romantic movies were based, including ‘The Notebook’, ‘A Walk To Remember’ and ‘Message in a Bottle’.
The movie was directed by Lasse Hallstrom and had the most successful opening weekend of the Nicholas Sparks’ movies to date, reaching number one at the box office, toppling ‘Avatar’ which had reigned at the top for the seven preceding weekends.
Dear John stars Amanda Seyfried as Savannah, the college student the soldier leaves behind. Channing Tatum is John, the soldier who falls in love with her before he is shipped overseas.
The two meet during 2001 when she is on vacation from college and he is on leave from the army. The pair soon realize that they are in love and John meets her family and several of her neighbors. Savannah also meets John’s father, who had for some years been more concerned with his coin collection rather than being a father to John.
Savannah thinks that his father may be autistic, like her neighbor’s son. John misunderstands and thinks she means he is retarded and gets upset. Angrily, he also gets into a fight with one of Savannah’s neighbors. However, he apologizes the next day and sends a note to Savannah asking her to forgive him before his leave ends. She kindly agrees and they spend one more day together before he leaves.
John intended this to be his last year in the army and expected to return to marry Savannah, however the terrorist attack on September 11th leaves him in a quandary and he asks her advice on whether he should re-enlist. She tells him that he should do whatever he believes to be right. Like the other soldiers in his unit, he decides he should re-enlist.
The letters, and the wars, drag on for another seven years, with John facing constant danger and eagerly awaiting the letters he receives from Savannah. However the distance and delay begin to take their toll as the couple drifts apart.
Eventually, Savannah feels she can no longer wait and sadly sends him a ‘Dear John’ letter to say that she has agreed to marry someone else.
John is despondent and feels that he no longer has a reason to return to civilian life so, even though he has been wounded several times, he decides to re-enlist and remain with the army as long as he can.
However, John’s father has a stroke and is dying. John is sent home to spend the last few days with him.
The film is remarkable for the way it portrays the enduring love and loyalty of Savannah during those long years when she has little emotional support from John and an uncertain future. Her youth is passing while John faces numerous dangers and could be killed in action at any time. Both Amanda and Channing carry out their roles with sensitivity and respect for their characters.