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Thursday, 13 May 2010

Dear John

All you really need to know about this film is that it's based on a novel by the guy who wrote The Notebook. Even better, it also features a notebook! Though it does also help if you have a very poor memory, because otherwise you're probably going to spot the twist in a love story between a young would-be social worker (Amanda Seyfried) and a US special forces solider named John (Channing Tatum) set in America in 2001.

The lovebirds meet in a small town on the Gulf of Mexico - he's back in town to visit his autistic father, she's on spring break - and before you know it he's muscled out the dweeby guy she was hanging around with and it's a perfect holiday romance. They both don't want it to end, and he's only got another year to go in the Army, so why not stick together? And then before you know it he's stuck in a War Without End, and despite all the letter-writing back and forth (there are a lot of time-passing montages going on here) it becomes an open question as to whether she'll be waiting for him when - and if - he ever comes home.

As romances go this avoids most of the obvious traps when it comes to drawing things out, giving the impression of two good kids who love each other but keep being torn apart by an uncaring world. A sharper film might have made more of the fact that it's the War On Terror that's killing their love, or even the shoddy medical treatment the autistic Dad gets at one stage. But that's not what this film's about; the only battle it really cares about is the one for the human heart. If that makes you go "awww", then this is the film for you; if not, The Hurt Locker should still be showing somewhere.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #475)

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