By Darren Chan Keng Leong (Singapore)
Note: Major Spoilers!
Based on the best-selling book “The Best of Me” by Nicholas Sparks, director Michael Hoffman does the book by justice through the sincere and emotional chemistry between the characters in the film that is reminiscent of the classic love story of “Romeo and Juliet.”
The film opens with lead character Dawson Cole who is portrayed by James Marsden of the X-Men franchise fame working on an offshore oil rig during the night shift when a gas explosion rips through the rig. Dawson courageously goes to save his co-workers who is on fire from the explosion and tries to rush as many of the workers to safety. However, a second stronger explosion sends him falling from the rig into the waters below.
After waking up in the hospital, doctors tells Dawson that it was a miracle that he survived but he gets bad news that his surrogate father and friend, Tuck has died and left a few things for Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier (Michelle Monaghan), his former high-school girl-friend who is now married. It has since been twenty years since they last met and Tuck had made arrangements for them to meet in his will, unknown to them to perhaps rekindle their chance at romance as they were seen as the perfect couple in Tuck’s eyes.
The film shifts between two time-lines with flashbacks involving the younger Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and the younger Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato) when they were in high-school like how they met at the school parking lot while Dawson helped Amanda fixed her car which had broken down. The film also shifts back to the present with Dawson and Amanda trying to rekindle their relationship as Amanda is unhappy with her husband who is an alcoholic.
Dawson grows up with an abusive father, Tommy Cole (Sean Bridges), the main antagonist who is a drunk, a hunter and has violent tendencies which comes to a head in destroying both Dawson and Amanda’s relationship in the film. Tommy Cole is also against of Dawson staying with Tuck who has brought Dawson under his wing as he knows of the notorious history of the Cole family.
The film touches on the complexity on family, love and relationship which makes brings out the intimacy and fragility of Dawson and Amanda’s character which takes them on a path of love and sacrifice. However, Dawson and Amanda still finds time to spend with each other at Tuck’s home where they frequented during their childhood. Tuck’s beautiful garden is a symbol of Dawson and Amanda’s love where despite years of neglect, Dawson still clears and replants the garden, a meaningful gesture that depicts the strength of their love and his promise to Amanda that he will love her forever, no matter the situation.
The climax of the film is when an older Dawson rushes to see Amanda whose son is undergoing an emergency surgery in the hospital but is ambushed by the film’s antagonist, Dawson’s father, Tommy Cole who sends his friends to force Dawson’s pickup into an oncoming railway train. However, Dawson is able to outsmart the both of them, but Dawson’s father merciless shoots his own son at point blank, instantly killing him.
The Best of Me presents a very emotional, touching and bittersweet experience of Dawson and Amanda that will leave the audience with both happy and sad feelings. I felt that the film delivered a strong character based story-line as it focuses on each character and ties it to the overall flow of the story. Director Michael Hoffman has done a great job in creating a sense of connection and sympathy for the characters of Dawson, Amanda and the other supporting characters in the film. The soundtrack of the film also blends very well with the various scenes which bring out the emotions that are portrayed by the different characters.
I enjoyed the many memorable quotes about love and relationship within the film and felt that it brought out the essence of the book with some changes. The scenes were also shot beautifully and enhanced the characters of the younger Dawson and Amanda which intrigued me. With an easy to identify cast and story-line, The Best of Me is one of the better romance films that would appeal to young and mature adults who will smile and cry with the characters.
I felt that the film had explicit scenes which were uncomfortable to watch as it felt forced and that these scenes should not have been the focus but the story-line of Dawson’s and Amanda’s struggles in their relationship. Also, the film did not explore Amanda’s husband reaction to her relationship with Dawson enough that it comes across as juvenile.
The last part of the film ties everything together with Amanda’s son getting a heart transplant from Dawson and it fulfills his promise to her that, “I don’t have much to offer, but I promise you can have the best of me.” It is poignant ending to the film as it shows that love is unconditional and compassionate.