Dear John appears to be a thinly veiled attempt by the author of The Notebook to create a romantic drama around the emotional challenges and patriotism inspired by the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th. It isn’t quite the war drama that it could be, and it does not meet the high expectations set by Nicholas Sparks one grew to expect after movie adaptations of books like A Walk To Remember. Lynn Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) has a rather intense relationship with John Tyree (Channing Tatum), who is sergeant in the United States Army. He is caught balancing his obligation to serve his country and continue his tour, because of the attacks of 9/11, which the rest of his unit wants to do, and going back to be home with the woman that he loves.
The emotional intensity of the relationship is continued through a series of letters that his girlfriend writes to him. A number of issues create friction within their relationship; his father, a recluse that has a hard time getting along with people that he takes care of when he is off from the Army, Savannah (the nickname of Lynn Curtis in the film), his girlfriend’s observation that his father might be autistic, her neighbor Randy, and Tim Wheddon, her other neighbor, who is overprotective of Savannah.
Savannah tries to keep up the relationship with John through a series of letters, but gets engaged and writes him that infamous “Dear John” letter and tells him about it while he away on tour. John automatically assumes that she is getting married to Randy, but to his surprise finds out once he gets back into Wilmington, NC that she is actually married to Tim, who is like twice her age. She tries to make things up to him but is rather unapologetic and states that she simply could not stand being away from him for so long. He asks why he did not get a phone call from her with the news, as opposed to a letter, and she states that it was because if she heard his voice she would have other thoughts. She had fallen in love with Tim because he was dying from cancer, and she needed someone to rely on her, and of course John was not around.
This movie has the intensity of A Walk To Remember, and The Notebook, but is not as convincing and lacks that emotional and romantic “suspense of disbelief” that Nicolas Sparks is known for. For one, if they had this strong emotional tie for years in high school why couldn’t she remain faithful to him? Second, if her basis for being in love was the fact of his emotional co-dependency on her, and she made the transition to someone else who was dying that had that same co-dependency, is that true love to begin with? Dear John is trying to convince us that what may have been honest, genuine confusion between infatuation and lust can substitute for a true love affair.
Savannah is like, so wrong, to John, yet he continues to run behind her and is there for her in spite of how she did him. She was a coward and broke up with him through a “Dear John” letter, and he forgives her, for what reason known to man, because she was emotionally co-dependent on a dying man and could not save herself for him until she got back from tour? He tries to bury himself into his work and make a career out of the military, which did not allow him to, and is forced to go back to Wilmington and confront his demons. His father died, but Savannah, as selfish as she is, stays with Tim until his death and once she is “free” to be with John without any consequences they ride off into the sunset?
I hate the way that this movie emasculates a man in uniform. Movies about the war as supposed to show strong men, not sensitive, hyper-masculine characters like John whose hearts are like putty in the hands of Savannah. What was so compelling about Savannah anyway? I understand that Amanda Seyfried is always portrayed as having the sexual intensity of actresses like Erika Christensen or Christina Ricci, but the emphasis of the movie is supposed to be the torrid emotional intensity between these two characters, and it would be somewhat believable of someone else played this role. Fans of Nicholas Sparks may love this film, but it just seems like his attempts at creating an emotionally complex soldier and a war drama failed miserably.