The Best of Me – Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Michael Hoffman
Writers: J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay), Will Fetters (screenplay)
Stars: James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey
There is a certain place in the world for ‘chick flicks’; a tried and tested formula of love overcoming adversity, kissing in the rain, and possible inclusion of someone from the wrong side of the tracks, an alcoholic husband, bereavement, near death experiences, prison, or teenage pregnancy.
On paper, The Best of Me appears to tick all the boxes. Not only does it include these elements, it also has a great leading cast in James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan, and is based on a novel by the god of chick flicks: Nicholas Sparks.
Sadly it does not live up to its potential. The casting of Luke Bracey as the younger version of Dawson is misguided, as the lack of similarity to Marsden in looks or build makes it impossible to believe that this could be the same person; disconnecting the two timeframes despite the more successful efforts of Liana Liberato as the young Amanda. There is also the strange decision to make both the older and younger Amanda wear the same colours, and the same backless dresses throughout the film; as if the audience wouldn’t be able to follow changes in fashion.
The other major issue is that The Best of Me doesn’t just use a few of the genre’s staple ingredients; it uses them all. Dawson (Marsden) and Amanda (Monaghan) were high school sweethearts now coming together for the first time in 21 years after the death of their friend Tuck, who had taken Dawson in and protected him from his criminally inclined family. Amanda is now married to a man with a drink problem, and Dawson, who has been pining after her for years (despite having broken up with her when he was sent to prison following an accidental shooting), has just had a near death experience. As you may imagine with this reunion, sparks fly. However any drama is diluted by an increasingly overcomplicated story, which distracts from the characters for too long to allow any real emotional engagement with them. This leads to a disappointing ending, as what should be reassuringly predictable ending feels sadly clichéd.