One’s first love is always memorable. To feel that intensity and longing for someone for the first time, that feeling is deeply ingrained in one’s memory. It can be beautiful, tender and special or it can be painful, dark and downright tragic. The new romantic drama The Best of Me explores “first love” and features syrupy performances from its actors. It isn’t a great film but it isn’t terrible either but what do you expect from romantic cheese. Romance novelist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle) is no stranger to the genre and many of his works have been adapted for the silver screen. The Best of Me continues this trend and now, lovesick teenage girls can celebrate the film’s arrival.
Jumping back and forth from present time to 21 years prior, The Best of Me follows the romantic relationship between cutie pies Dawson and Amanda. In present time, they are played by James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan and their 21 year-younger versions are played by Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato. Their union is one that has been seen in movies time and time again. Dawson is a sensitive yet muscular intellectual and Amanda is a confused beauty torn between Dawson and the popular kids. The bulk of the film focuses on these two lovebirds as they fall hard for one another. A series of unfortunate events interrupts their courtship and they aren’t reunited until their mutual friend dies over two decades later. Their romance flares back up but now there are adult complications thrown their way.
The four main actors handle Nicholas Sparks’ material well here and they are all certainly attractive enough to hold the attention of even the most casual romantic fiction fan. With 21 years between their counterparts, Marsden and Monaghan definitely show a hefty amount of maturity and emotional intelligence. Bracey and Liberato show a strong amount of naiveté and immaturity and that is very appropriate given their characters. Though the pairs of actors don’t look much like each other, their personalities are mirrored rather nicely.
Filmed in some very pretty parts of Louisiana, the setting of The Best of Me is as much a character as any of the actors. With what seems to be a perpetual sunset, the film’s Southern backdrop is rather gorgeous. With good-looking actors and a good-looking location, one can easily be taken by The Best of Me but these superficial aspects shouldn’t cloud the judgments of conscious moviegoers. The Best of Me is really nothing more than another paycheck for Nicholas Sparks. His books have caught the attention of many lovesick readers and his cheesiness has converted well to film. There are many cons to his latest filmed adaptation but it isn’t without its pros.
The Best of Me isn’t a perfect film, that much is true but it has an easy to digest plot and attractive leading actors. If you aren’t a fan of Sparks or even romantic dramas in general, then you might want to avoid this film. It is tailored to a very specific audience and if you fall outside that demographic, then you will probably be a tad disappointed.