Literary phenomenon Nicholas Sparks seems to have entered the weird echelon of authors who have every single piece of work they produce turned into feature films. Results have been mixed, given that he essentially writes unambitious romance novels and there’s only so much you can do with them, but box office receipts have all been pretty healthy, with The Notebook in particular becoming something of a phenomenon (though A Walk to Remember is underrated and also worth a look). This latest effort benefits from a strong cast and many of the motifs that Sparks likes to employ – flashback structures, manipulative narrative turns and an old-fashioned melodramatic love story.

The almost entirely negative reviews it’s been met with are predictable – the vast majority of film critics are men over the age of 50, which is the precise opposite of the film’s target demographic. Granted, this is by-the-numbers filmmaking in pretty much every respect, but the trend to bash Sparks adaptations has let a lot of good work go uncredited here. Both leads acquit themselves well, if you can get away from the distraction of how much Scott Eastwood looks uncannily like his father at that age, and there’s some incredible footage of rodeo stunt work that makes you wish it was more central to the plot that the gloopy romance. All this is pretty immaterial though – people will watch this film for reassuring escapism about love conquering obstacles and they will go away very satisfied.

The same stuff you get with every Nicholas Spark adaptation5
Nowhere near as bad as the reviews suggest though7
Delivering its promise of old-fashioned melodrama7
Some quite astonishingly shot rodeo scenes9
Otherwise very standard romantic escapism5
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
Bechdel Test Failures
  • I'm pretty sure they only ever talk about men
7Overall Score

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