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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Dear John

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried star in a scene from the movie "Dear John."
Young love finds itself tested by current events in the frequently sentimental drama "Dear John" (Screen Gems).

While the outside strains on the central relationship in director Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' best-selling 2006 novel may be all too realistic—including as they do the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—the characters' reactions to them, at least in a few crucial cases, come across as emotionally off-key.

Home on leave to visit his mildly autistic father (Richard Jenkins), South Carolina-bred Special Forces Sgt. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) falls for affluent college student Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried). As shown in the opening scenes, the two meet when surfing enthusiast John, acting with characteristic gallantry, dives into the drink to retrieve the purse Savannah, acting with not-uncharacteristic vagueness, accidentally dropped off a beachside pier.

As John's return to duty looms, the two resolve to maintain their newfound bond by an exchange of detailed—and always honest—letters.

But then John's plans to leave the Army at the end of his enlistment—less than a year away—are suddenly scuttled by 9/11. He uses a brief furlough to visit Savannah, who fumes over the situation ("How dare that Osama bin Laden do this to me!" her face seems to say), and quarrels with him.

They make it up by consummating their attraction in an encounter the film handles discreetly, but also unmistakably endorses.

The crisis that follows once John departs again—revealing its precise nature would constitute a spoiler, though those old enough to remember the slang of earlier conflicts may take a hint from the title—sees Savannah behaving in a way that seems unlikely and inauthentic.

By contrast, the portrayal of John's conflicted filial feelings for his dad—an isolated figure who devotes all his time and attention to his extensive coin collection, and who eventually suffers a crisis of his own—is moving.

Despite John and Savannah's premature physicality, Jamie Linden's script does have its moral strong points, perhaps reflecting Spark's religious values as a practicing Catholic. Thus Savannah devotes her vacation days during spring break to rebuilding a neighbor's home, and dreams of opening a summer camp for autistic children. And John, who clearly appreciates Savannah's sensitivity, is shown to have a violent temper that he struggles to control.

The film contains nongraphic premarital sexual activity with partial nudity, a few uses of profanity and at least four instances of the S-word. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.



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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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