The Best of Me
With a movie based on a Nicholas
Sparks novel, you expect romance.
And in “The Best of Me,” that’s exactly
what you get: the
kind of romance that starts with two people in high school, and doesn’t
quit during the whole next twenty years, even if their lives have appeared
to go in difference directions.
Once they meet each other again, all the old
feelings come flooding back, just like before.
Except now it’s more complicated.
Dawson and Amanda are the two
lovebirds who are breathlessly in love not only with each other, but
seemingly with the idea of their mutual love, as if that is some kind of
third-party presence that’s always there with them, no matter where they
story is told by continuing to flash back and forth between the present, and
when they originally met, and so we’re actually watching four actors play
the two lead roles. Luke
Bracey, as the younger Dawson, looks too old to be in high school, but he is
convincing as the abused teenager who runs away from a cruel father (and a
couple of complicit “white trash” brothers), and winds up seeking refuge
in an unlocked mechanic’s shop, owned by Tuck (Gerald McRaney).
Tuck takes the frightened teenager in,
encourages his natural interest in auto repair, and more importantly,
creates a place for
where it’s peaceful, and where he’s safe.
meets young Amanda (Liana Liberato), who has to take the
lead in the flirtation, because
is too shy and abashed to know what to do, but before long,
they are a real item. But
all is not well with their families.
’s father insists on “collecting” him and bringing him home---because
he needs him to help with the drug-running operation?
Amanda’s Dad, a prosperous businessman,
with college money in exchange for staying away from his
turns down the arrogant offer in disgust, despite his natural interest in
college, and his crying need for financial support, but soon is dragged down
by his own family again.
In the end, he decides Amanda would indeed be
better off without him, despite her pleadings and protestations.
When you fast-forward 20 years,
you have James Marsden playing Dawson, now a roughneck on an offshore oil
rig, and Michelle Monaghan playing Amanda, now married and the mother of two
children, one of whom is now graduating from high school. Dawson and Amanda
are thrown back together by the death of Tuck, who names them both in his
finding themselves together again after all these years, sifting through
Tuck’s estate, they spend quite a bit of time sorting out what happened to
them, and how it is that they didn’t wind up together.
As churchgoing viewers, we’re
a little bit torn here, as we watch these two lovelorn people so obviously
still in love with each other, but she’s married.
So we’re supposed to root for The World’s
Greatest Romance to destroy her marriage?
Or maybe we’re cheering for the adultery to
pretend it won’t have any lasting effect on the participants?
Yes, Romance, or Eros, if you will, can
definitely have a life of its own.
Whether it should be indulged beyond societal
norms is not just an ethical question, but a religious and moral one.
Funny that religion is never mentioned here.
Though the film is “genteel” in the sense
of the lovemaking being amazingly discreet and non-explicit, and the scenes
of romantic encounters being almost elegant in their dream-like
understatement, still, there’s a harsh undertone of lustful
does that tap into the viewer’s secret desire to do something just a
little naughty with a kind of thrilling reckless abandon seen only in, say,
novels like those of Nicholas Sparks?
Maybe the writer of Song of
Solomon had it right: “I adjure you, daughters of
, to not stir up love, or awaken it until it pleases.” (SS
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the
Parish Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,