Verdict: Fans of The Notebook will forgive this film its flaws
Lasse Hallstrom began his career directing little gems such as My Life as a Dog and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, but with this melodrama the Swedish director takes on a film more akin to a Hallmark greeting card with a story that's sentimental and contrived.
Its redeeming feature is it's well shot and relatively well acted, and of the two Nicholas Sparks' novel adaptations playing at the cinemas - Miley Cyrus' The Last Song is the other - Dear John is the more palatable.
University student Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) and Special Forces soldier John Tyree (Channing Tatum) meet during spring break 2001 in a coastal South Carolina town, where he is holidaying while on temporary leave visiting his reclusive father (Richard Jenkins).
It's pretty much love at first sight, and when John returns to active duty they continue their long distance relationship through letter writing. When his tour is over John plans to return to America to be with Savannah, but 9/11 puts his plans into turmoil.
Until this point Dear John is a restrained, idealistic, almost old-fashioned romance with a few unremarkable subplots moving through the story. Then that letter arrives, the one you receive regardless of whether your name is John, and from this point the film is a series of tragic twists and turns designed purely to get the audience worked up. It's not an approach that works; though there is the occasional emotionally honest moment, it has no final punch, as if even Hallstrom is worn down by how artificial this saga has become.
Sure, the romantic drama fan may still need a tissue, but for the more cynically minded, well, at least there's some eye candy on offer from the pretty young leads.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Running time: 109 min
Rating: M (Violence & Sex Scenes)