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Soon after John and Savannah fall madly in love, their relationship is put on hold. With one leaving to complete his service, and the other to complete her college education, they pass the time by exchanging a continuous stream of love letters, until they can be reunited permanently a year later. But when war breaks out, their separation is extended indefinitely. Will their relationship survive the greatest test of all: the test of time?
For more about Dear John and the Dear John Blu-ray release, see Dear John Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writers: Jamie Linden, Nicholas Sparks
Starring: Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins, Henry Thomas, Scott Porter (III), Luke Benward
» See full cast & crew
Dear John Blu-ray Review
More than it's billed to be, 'Dear John' impresses as a real-life Drama.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 12, 2010
Romance sells. Stephenie Meyer know it, Nicholas Sparks knows it, and Hollywood knows it. And that's what makes Dear John so intriguing. Billed as a Romance but delving into so much more, the latest Nicholas Sparks novel-turned-film isn't just another garden-variety and overly-mushy happily-ever-after Romance. It's built around a seemingly unbreakable bond of love between two people, but the greater story is something else altogether. Dear John frames a romance amidst the chaos of life; there are no easy decisions, no right or wrong answers, only life and all of its hardships that come to define the whole of one's existence. Dear John succeeds where others fail, because even through the deliberately tearjerking moments is an honest-to-goodness glimpse into what life is all about. It's not always perfect, it doesn't end like a fairy tale, and Dear John embraces the facts of life over the sentimentalities of fiction. Director Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) yanks on the heartstrings in pretty much every scene -- Kleenex probably financed the movie -- but the base emotions of the movie, particularly those that come from somewhere other than the focal Romantic relationship, prove powerful, heartfelt, and raw, and Dear John is all the better for it.
John Tyree (Channing Tatum, Fighting), a member of the U.S. Army's Special Forces, meets a young South Carolinian girl, Savannah (Amanda Seyfried, Chloe), while on leave. The two fall almost immediately in love. Their first encounter leads to a first official date and Savannah's introduction to John's obsessive coin-collecting father (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor). Their whirlwind romance blossoms into something deeper in the span of two weeks, but John must return to active duty and Savannah's headed back to college. Not to be denied their relationship by the constraints of space and time, they promise to write to one another day after day, hoping that their year apart will seem like weeks instead of months. Before the year is out, tragedy strikes; planes fly into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, forever changing the American landscape and leading John to choose duty over love as he re-enlists for further military service, leaving a heartbroken Savannah behind. Can their relationship survive the strains of war, or will Savannah pen a "dear John" letter and move on with her life?
"Polarizing" might be the best word with which to describe how audiences will react to Dear John. Some will laugh at its blatant sentimentality. Others will begrudge the absence of a more conventional Romantic plot. Others still will find in it an honesty that seems to be missing from so many other films of its kind. It's the latter through which, should one see it in that light, the strengths of the film become more readily evident and, ultimately, outweigh its weaknesses. Dear John -- even the title is cliché and telegraphs the major turning point midway through the film -- manages to overcome a triteness and sometimes overly-sappy façade with a genuinely touching second half. In fact, the movie might have even worked better had it foregone, or at least toned down, the romantic elements and instead focused on the father-son relationship that's easily the strength of the film and that through which it derives much of its emotion, integrity, and honesty. Still, the romance comes off as genuine; there's a palpable chemistry between Tatum and Seyfried, and the parts of the film that focus on the burgeoning relationship and even on into some of the lovey-dovey elements before John returns to the military and Savannah returns to college work well enough, though again the best scenes are those that also involve John's father as an external element as the relationship takes form.
Fortunately, Channing Tatum's performance in Dear John is exponentially better than the embarrassing effort he put forth in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. That doesn't mean he should get busy writing his Oscar acceptance speech. He's stiff as a board, barely emotes, and recites his lines as if reading them for the first time, but that's still quite the improvement over his turn as the iconic Duke. Tatum does absolutely sell one scene as he's reading a letter in a hospital; his emotion is readily evident and seemingly genuine, and while another actor steals the scene, Tatum's effort helps make it the best in the movie. On that note, the film works wonders with the way in which it shifts the context of said letter that's read aloud twice in the film. A major revelation changes the entire complexion of the letter and, by extension, the film, adding credence to the notion that Dear John is greater than the sum of the romantic façade that's the picture's greatest superficial element, but certainly not its most thematically relevant. As for Amanda Seyfried, she neither impresses nor disappoints; she plays the part of Savannah well enough, but both she and Tatum are overshadowed by very a subdued but nevertheless exceptional effort by the always-excellent Richard Jenkins. Technically, Dear John boasts gorgeous scenery, solid cinematography, a good score, and stable direction from Lasse Hallström. Hallström, coming off a successful venture with Hachi, captures a somewhat similar tone with Dear John; both films construct themes revolving around devotion, loss, and sacrifice. They're both tearjerkers to be sure, but Hallström shows a knack for retaining a steady, honest tone to these sorts of pictures, even through the sadness that hangs over them. As with Hachi, Dear John is a gentle film that's manipulative but surprisingly contextually real, framing life as it is and not as it should be, where the good must sometimes give way to the bad, where love and regret and ups and downs come with the territory, one inevitably superseding the other in an ever-shifting environment that's all about the give and take and the ebbs and flows of a world that is inescapably far from motion picture perfect.
Dear John Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dear Sony, thanks for another superb Blu-ray transfer. Other than a couple short bouts of banding, there's nothing about Dear John's picture quality that demands any reduction in score. This 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer is gorgeously film-like in every scene. Love the movie or hate it, the film is worth a look on Blu-ray if only to revel in the natural texturing, wonderful colors, deep blacks, and strong depth that make Dear John's transfer as sweet as its saccharine romance. Viewers will note the fine grains and textures on unfinished lumber in one early scene at an under-construction house in chapter three. The transfer also demonstrates precise replications of the intricacies of military uniforms and weapons, facial hairs and pores, and the ridges and designs on close-ups of coins. Colors are breathtakingly natural, whether sandy beaches, green grasses, or camouflaged uniforms. Blacks are pristine -- deep, inky, and true -- with absolutely no evidence of crush or, on the other end of the spectrum, taking on an unnaturally bright texture. Flesh tones are stably natural, too. The print is positively pristine, with nary a hint of unwanted debris. A very fine layer of grain hovers over the image to put the finishing touches on a virtually problem-free transfer. This is another splendid new release from Sony.
Dear John Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony brings Dear John to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Though lacking any noteworthy elements, this one moves along as well as can be expected of what is a generally easygoing Romance/Drama-style soundtrack. Stable and crystal-clear, this DTS track handles each of its elements very well, notably the light genre music that flows effortlessly into the soundstage with a crisp and soothing flair, supported by a light surround element. The track isn't heavy on atmospherics, but it handles all the movie has to offer nicely, whether rolling thunder and an enveloping rain in chapter three or heavier ocean waves in several other scenes. A few wartime scenes later in the film feature several instances of sharp but not particularly powerful gunfire and the heavy rumbling of Humvees across the soundstage, the latter delivering the most potent bass to be found in the film. Supported by pitch-perfect dialogue reproduction, Dear John sounds just fine on Blu-ray, even if there's, more often than not, little of note actually going on.
Dear John Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dear John enlists a few supplements for this Blu-ray release. A Conversation with Channing, Amanda, and Lasse (1080p, 5:24) features the stars and director of Dear John praising one another's styles and work on the film. Transforming Charleston (1080p, 14:52) examines the challenges of recreating various worldwide locales in and around Charleston, South Carolina. Military in Movies: Dear John's Military Advisors 1080p, 11:03) features Military Advisor Lt. Col. Gregory Bishop and cast and crew speaking on the process of lending realism to Dear John's military segments. Mr. Tyree, The Mule, and Benny Dietz (1080p, 4:53) takes a closer look at the world of coin collecting and its role in the film. Next is The Story of Braeden Reed (1080p, 24:33), a piece that looks closely at the work and life of young Braeden Reed, the actor who portrayed the autistic character Alan in the film. Also included is a collection of 12 deleted and alternate scenes (480p, 10:13); an alternate ending (1080p, 3:41); a series of outtakes (480p, 2:24); BD-Live functionality; MovieIQ connectivity; and 1080p trailers for The Bounty Hunter, The Runaways, Nine, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Back-Up Plan, and Catch and Release.
Dear John Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bashing Dear John as a sentimental, overplayed, and manipulative piece of Hollywood rubbish is probably the cinematically-correct thing for a critic to do. It's certainly all of those things to a degree, but the movie is also genuinely touching and charming, particularly as it revolves around the father-son interplay that proves to be the movie's true source of strength. Those looking for a straightforward, feel-good Romance will be disappointed with Dear John; it's more a film about life and the decisions that shape it than it is simply "just another Romance." From the chance receipt of a valuable coin to the chance retrieval of a submerged purse, from the decision to enlist in the military in peacetime only to have the world forever altered on September 11, Dear John is more an examination of life and all that entails, with its romantic element simply representing another stage of each character's personal journey. Moviegoers that give Dear John a chance and see it for what it is rather than going in with a predisposition against it or with expectations that it's something that it's really not might be surprised at the amount of depth and the moving story lines to be found in the film. Sony's Blu-ray release of Dear John is, quite simply, another stunning package from a studio that's one of Blu-ray's best. A nearly flawless 1080p transfer, a capable lossless soundtrack, and a fair selection of extras make this a disc worth owning. Recommended.
Dear John: Other Editions
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Dear John Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dear John Blu-ray Announced - March 29, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced Dear John for release on Blu-ray on May 25. This romantic drama, directed by Lasse Halström and based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, has earned at least a footnote mention in cinema history as the movie that finally ...
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