Reviewed by: Denica McCall
|Featuring:||Michelle Monaghan … Amanda
James Marsden … Dawson
Luke Bracey … Younger Dawson
Liana Liberato … Young Amanda
Gerald McRaney … Tuck
Caroline Goodall … Evelyn
Clarke Peters … Morgan Dupree
Sebastian Arcelus … Frank
Jon Tenney … Harvey Collier
Rob Mello (Robert William Mello) … Ted Cole
Hunter Burke … Abee
Robby Rasmussen … Bobby / Aaron
|Director:||Michael Hoffman—“One Fine Day” (1996), “A Midsummer Night's Dream” (1999), “The Last Station” (2009)|
Nicholas Sparks, and others
“You never forget your first love”
“The Best of Me” is a film based on a Nicholas Sparks book that chronicles the love story of Dawson Cole and his high school sweetheart Amanda Collier. The two are reunited after two decades as a result of the death of a mutual friend named Tuck—a father figure to Dawson. When Dawson and Amanda are both requested to meet with Tuck’s lawyer, they are inevitably drawn together and confronted with the reality of trying to reconcile their painful past. The movie switches back and forth between their younger selves, with their developing love story, and the current time set at Tuck’s house where they are going through his things and taking care of final business.
Dawson grew up in an abusive and unstable home life where his father was involved in criminal activity. Hence, as a young man, he ran away and found himself at the home of a kind widower named Tuck who took him in as a son. Dawson was smart, but never had the opportunity to go to college, because of a tragic incident resulting in eight years in jail. Amanda was the girl who called out the best in him, encouraging him to make something of himself and that he didn’t have to go along with the whims and demands of his violent father.
After Dawson ended up in jail, all their plans changed, and Amanda was eventually forced to move on. At the time of her and Dawson’s reunion, she has a husband whom she is growing distant from and a son about to enter college. Dawson is an oil rig worker who just miraculously survived an explosion at his rig and is wondering if there might actually be a purpose to his life after all.
There are several instances of profanity spread throughout the film, though it is not overwhelming. I heard at least five uses of sh**, one f-bomb, three hells and a couple God-d*** and assh***. The majority of the language takes place with Dawson’s father.
At least three different times characters are shown beating up other characters. There are a couple scenes involving guns and violence between members of Dawson’s family. Blood is mild and is only shown a couple times, but two people are shown being shot. In the very beginning is an intense scene involving fire and explosions.
As can be expected, there are several scenes between Dawson and Amanda where they are shown passionately kissing and two instances where they are beginning to have sex. Not too much is shown on screen, but it is definitely implied. Unfortunately, in neither scene are they married to each other, and, the second time, Amanda is committing adultery because she is married to another man.
There are a few scenes involving drinking, but not necessarily getting drunk.
Although the majority of the morality of this film is questionable, I did find many things to appreciate and commend in its themes. I really liked the character of Tuck. Though he had lost his wife, he never grew bitter; instead he found renewed purpose in pouring out his life for Dawson and becoming like a father to him when he needed someone. Tuck called identity out of Dawson and never stopped loving him, even when he made mistakes. He chose to see the good in him.
Tuck was also the one who had the insight to bring Dawson and Amanda back together after his death, giving them a second chance and an opportunity to heal and offer forgiveness. I appreciated how Amanda chose to forgive Dawson for the pain he had caused her when they were separated and how she also always chose to see the good in him and call it out. She never put him in a box or put a label on him because he grew up in a bad home. I think both Tuck and Amanda did what Jesus does with us: chooses to call us blameless and clean, hence pulling us out of our shame and helping us to become who we really are.
I also appreciated how, in many ways, Dawson and Amanda’s love is unselfish. They want the best for each other and are both willing to sacrifice something for that. As Dawson says, Amanda is “the best of him.”
“The Best of Me” may be worth seeing for those who can handle the mature subject matter, especially for fans of Nicholas Sparks. There are some predictable elements to the story but also scenes you probably won’t see coming. It does not have a Christian worldview—the characters put their trust in the universe and fate, rather than God, but, nevertheless, it has a redemptive theme, if you are willing to weave around the questionable content.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Heavy
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…“throws in everything but the kitchen sink”… it certainly doesn’t stint on the kitsch. [2/5]
—Tim Robey, The Telegraph [UK]
…‘The Best of Me’ equates to ‘The Notebook’ Vol. 8… The film’s final act does make one surprising move, which is to completely out-schmaltz itself. …
—Sara Stewart, New York Post
“The Best of Me” is easily the worst of Sparks… No amount of soft light and love-you-forever declarations change the fact she's married to someone else, and when Dawson and Amanda do hook up, it's just icky seeing her wedding ring and being sold a false bill of goods that infidelity is okay as long as it's with your “true love.”
—Christa Banister, Crosswalk
…“The Best of Me” is in fact the worst yet: a cheap knockoff of an already inferior product. …hobbled by an overwrought story that turns positively Hallmark-Movie-preposterous in its third act… [½/5]
—Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle
…failure to draw up compelling, flawed, human characters … [1/4]
—Eric Henderson, Slant Magazine
…Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden gamely swim against the current, fighting the torpid tide of tripe that romance novelist Nicholas Sparks sends their way… It’s sad to watch them strain and struggle and then give up as the lachrymose “The Best of Me” drowns them in a sea of saccharine. … [1½/4]
—Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
“The Best of Me” makes love feel as real as a plastic rose… [½/4]
—Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers
“The Best of Me” Sparks of cliché… [1/4]
—Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
…a sexually charged, overwrought romantic fantasy… the underlying message here is a little scary. And the fact that Amanda and Frank could use some serious marriage counseling in no way gives her license to sleep with an old beau. …
—Paul Asay, Plugged In
…romance that is ridden with every cliché in the genre… every tear-jerker trope in existence…
—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
Appealing performances by Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden can't save this latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation. …
—Justin Chang, Variety
…The only thing “The Best of Me” really wants is to weave a teary-eyed romantic spell by any means necessary. The screenplay is so haphazardly constructed that when the movie seems to be ending, it refuels with preposterous new developments. …
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times