Bring Tissues to ‘Dear John’

“Dear John” follows author Nicholas Sparks’s usual formula – lovers separated by war and the letters that keep them in touch – but it’s not “The Notebook.”

The film doesn’t shy away from the genre’s clichés: John (Channing Tatum), a 23-year-old on leave from the Army, first meets Savannah (Amanda Seyfried), a college student back home from spring break, when he rescues her purse from the ocean.

Once a problem child, John has turned over a new leaf. Savannah, on the other hand, doesn’t drink, smoke, curse or sleep around. After inviting him to her house for a town barbeque, the two talk for hours and John asks her to dinner. A montage of dates later, Savannah wants to meet his father.

Although “Dear John” has been advertised as a love story, its strength lies in its father/son relationship.

Richard Jenkins, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his superb performance in the film “The Visitor” plays John’s father who may have autism.

It’s his character that truly connects John and Savannah more so than the sudden rain that traps the couple for their first kiss. The pair lives in bliss until John’s two-week vacation comes to a close. As John’s departure arrives, he promises to return when his tour is done. Unfortunately for him, that’s the cinema’s kiss of death.

Just when the audience thinks the film will continue down its predictable path, a huge plot twist turns everything upside down.

What differentiates “Dear John” from its counterparts is the ethical dilemma that suits the film’s tagline perfectly: Is duty enough reason to live a lie?

Christina De Nicola may be contacted at cdenicola@themiamihurricane.com.