The movies Dear John received mixed reviews. It provided an adequate romantic film for this Valentine's season, however.
The latest movie to come out of the Nicholas Sparks franchise features performances by Channing Tatum (as John Tyree), Amanda Seyfried (Savannah Curtis, and Richard Jenkins (Mr. Tyree). Tatum plays the part of John Tyree, a super-strong Special Forces staff sergeant that apparently had a habit for tearing up the local bar back in his hometown. He is gone from town frequently as an Active Duty soldier, but he comes back to visit his father occasionally. John's father is autistic and extremely uncommunicative through the film, although John is unaware of this for a long time. Dear John is a tear-jerker that runs in a similar vein as The Notebook, but it spends more time gambling to win popularity from public sentiment about the events of September 11, 2001 than it does presenting a clear and sensible plot. Dear John is not a terrible movie, but it fails to excel past average and critics have given it mostly negative reviews.
The opening scene shows Sergeant Tyree lying on the ground with some AK-47 wounds, and spoils the primary action of the film almost immediately. As spent ammunition cartridges ("brass") fall from the sky and change into coins, Tyree recalls events from his childhood, and the story flashes back to the beginning. The story starts as John is on leave from military duty in 2000 while Savannah is on spring break. The two fall in love quickly after meeting, and they agree to exchange letters while Tyree is gone.
Savannah also meets John's father and believes that he may have developmental issues, although John becomes very angry when this idea is mentioned to him. Richard Jenkins does a quality job of portraying My. Tyree's infirmity, and this is most humorously indicated by the ritual cooking Mr. Tyree engages in during the movie: each day of the week means a certain food that Mr. Tyree cooks without fail. On Sunday, for example, lasagna is always on the table. Mr. Tyree also displays some compulsive cleanliness tendencies with his coins and silverware.
It is the coins that highlight a rift in John and Mr. Tyree's relationship. A flashback reveals a time when father and son travelled to coin shops to examine various specimens of error coins. The coin that started it all was a "Jefferson Mule"; essentially, a penny impressed into a nickel by accident. Over time, however, John lost interest in coin collecting, and with his military commitment, Mr. Tyree had been left largely alone.
The primary action of the movie is initiated when the events of September 11 occur. Savannah is at college while John is with his unit. John is posed with a dilemma: his term of enlistment is about to expire, and he must decide whether he will re-enlist or return home to stay. When he is given a 48-hour pass, he goes back to his father and Savannah, then decides to re-enlist. He keeps in contact with Savannah by letter, even though the letters at times do not reach each other very rapidly. Over time, however, Savannah and John become separated by distance, and Savannah eventually sends John a "Dear John" letter informing him that she has become engaged to someone else. When he returns home, he discovers that she is not engaged to the rich suitor that he expected, Randy, but another friend of Savannah's that John had been friends with before, Tim.
Savannah's reasoning for marrying Tim is not quite clear, as she mumbles something about being confused while he was gone. This illogical transition is a major failure of the film. As it turned out, Tim was diagnosed with a terminal illness while John was gone, and Savannah felt compassion for him and forsook the love she had with John. Once John learns of this news, he refocuses upon the military and is subsequently shot during an urban combat operation; this is where the film picks up with the opening scenes. Despite suffering this injury, Sergeant Tyree decides to continue deploying until he is sent home with the news that his father has had a stroke. The touching scenes that follow are where Tatum and Richards save the movie with some tear-jerking footage of compassion and reconnection with father and son. This is one of the only points at which Dear John approaches its masterfully emotional ancestor, The Notebook. After this, John's father dies.
The movie resolves most of the dangling loose ends when Tim dies. Savannah learns that John took the coin collection of his father's and sold it to anonymously donate money to Tim's treatment to keep him alive long enough to reconnect with his family, and she sincerely appreciates this. John eventually meets Savannah again on the street, and the only question that remains is what happens with the two of them from there. Dear John is an okay film that has produced mediocre reviews, but if you are a sucker for the Nicholas Sparks tear-jerking type, then Dear John will certainly fill the gap. Amazingly, Dear John was the first movie to topple Avatar's stranglehold on movie sales.