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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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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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