Director: Michael Hoffman
Actors: James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe, Will Fetters, Michael Hoffman, Nicholas Sparks (novel)
Runtime: 119 min
Nicholas Sparks novel adaptations have become a genre of film all their own, even aside from the generic romantic drama. This prolific writer has garnered a host of loyal fans who flock to every film version of his books, eager to see their favourite characters come to life on the big screen. The Best of Me (2014), from director Michael Hoffman, is the latest offering in this category. This film is one that may excite said fans, but unfortunately does not offer much to provide interest for those of us looking for something unique in our romantic melodrama film adaptations.
James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan star as Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier, two ill-fated lovers who have not seen each other since their unfortunate break up after high school. Years later, the two are reunited when a mutual friend dies and requests that they scatter his ashes together. The film oscillates between showing Dawson and Amanda fulfilling this man’s final wishes, and revealing their backstory as adolescents, where they are played by young actors Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato, respectively. As their past love story is illuminated, their present one begins to take shape, as well.
I can only assume that fans of this novel will enjoy this film adaptation. The work aims at epic status with its sweeping cinematography and score, and the actors are all well meaning and sincere to a fault. My favourite performance was that of Gerald McRaney as Tuck, the kind old man who befriends a young and abused Dawson and brings him together with Amanda both as teenagers and later in life. This character had depth and promise, and I enjoyed watching him on the screen. Unfortunately, however, a mediocre screenplay came off as sappy and contrived, and failed to lure me in. The cliched story has been represented many times before, and the surprise twist at the end was so unlikely that even it failed to render this film unique.
There is certainly a market for romantic drama book adaptations, and I believe that The Best of Me will please its target audience. The acting is decent, and the double storyline will undoubtedly create some interest. Unfortunately, the film fails to offer anything new or noteworthy in terms of narrative, character development, cinematography, and other factors that I look for in a film going experience. There are very good romantic melodramas out there that can be enjoyed by even a cynic such as myself, such as the recent hit The Fault in Our Stars (2014). It is a shame that The Best of Me does not fall into this category.