"A Walk to Remember" is a love story so sweet, sincere and positive that it sneaks past the defenses built up in this age of irony. It tells the story of a romance between two 18-year-olds that is summarized when the boy tells the girl's doubtful father: "Jamie has faith in me. She makes me want to be different. Better." After all of the vulgar crudities of the typical modern teenage movie, here is one that looks closely, pays attention, sees that not all teenagers are as cretinous as Hollywood portrays them.
The singer Mandy Moore, a natural beauty in both face and manner, stars as Jamie Sullivan, an outsider at school who is laughed at because she stands apart, has values, and always wears the same ratty blue sweater. Her father (Peter Coyote) is a local minister. Shane West plays Landon Carter, a senior boy who hangs with the popular crowd but is shaken when a stupid dare goes wrong and one of his friends is paralyzed in a diving accident. He dates a popular girl and joins in the laughter against Jamie. Then, as punishment for the prank, he is ordered by the principal to join the drama club: "You need to meet some new people." Jamie's in the club. He begins to notice her in a new way. He asks her to help him rehearse for a role in a play. She treats him with level honesty. She isn't one of those losers who skulks around feeling put upon; her self-esteem stands apart from the opinion of her peers. She's a smart, nice girl, a reminder that one of the pleasures of the movies is to meet good people.
The plot has revelations that I will not reveal. Enough to focus on the way Jamie's serene example makes Landon into a nicer person--encourages him to become more sincere and serious, to win her where she approaches him while he's with his old friends and says, "See you tonight," and he says, "In your dreams." When he turns up at her house, she is hurt and angry, and his excuses sound lame even to him.
The movie walks a fine line with the Peter Coyote character, whose church Landon attends. Movies have a way of stereotyping reactionary Bible-thumpers who are hostile to teen romance. There is a little of that here; Jamie is forbidden to date, for example, although there's more behind his decision than knee-jerk strictness. But when Landon goes to the Rev. Sullivan and asks him to have faith in him, the minister listens with an open mind.
Yes, the movie is corny at times. But corniness is all right at times. I forgave the movie its broad emotion because it earned it. It lays things on a little thick at the end, but by then it had paid its way. Director Adam Shankman and his writer, Karen Janszen, working from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, have an unforced trust in the material that redeems, even justifies the broad strokes. They go wrong only three times: (1) The subplot involving the paralyzed boy should have either been dealt with, or dropped; (2) It's tiresome to make the black teenager use "brother" in every sentence, as if he is not their peer but was ported in from another world; (3) As Kuleshov proved more than 80 years ago in a famous experiment, when an audience sees an impassive closeup, it supplies the necessary emotion from the context. It can be fatal for an actor to try to "act" in a closeup, and Landon's little smile at the end is a distraction at a crucial moment.
Those are small flaws in a touching movie. The performances by Moore and West are so quietly convincing we're reminded that many teenagers in movies seem to think like 30-year-old standup comics. That Jamie and Landon base their romance on values and respect will blindside some viewers of the film, especially since the first five or 10 minutes seem to be headed down a familiar teenage movie trail. "A Walk to Remember" is a small treasure.
I'm sure many of you know what the majority of Nicholas Sparks's books are: tearjerkers which aim to make the reader fall in love with the novel, only to cry at the end. A Walk to Remember was the first Nicholas Sparks book I had ever read, and it was just about perfect.
This novel is a bit of twisted take on your average romance novel. Instead of the good girl falling for the bad boy, it's more of the other way round. Landon Carter, your average high school ruffian is not in the slightest the kind of boy you would expect to like Jamie Sullivan, the quiet girl who always carries around a Bible with her school books. Nevertheless, destiny has a habit of bringing people who are secretly perfect for each other together.
What I found interesting is that it was written from Landon's perspective. Very few romance novels that I've read have been from the male perspective, let alone someone like Landon. Nevertheless, the way that Sparks has portrayed Landon through the first person narrative allows the reader to see how Landon really feels rather than the way he acts outwardly.
Jamie is a lovely character, the kind of person you'd want to have as a best friend, and by the end of the novel, Landon is the perfect gentleman. There are no two people in a novel that I have ever wanted more to end up together.
I admit I'd seen the 2002 movie before I read the book, so I already knew the story, but I knew the saying 'the book is always better than the film', so of course I had to read it too! I can't think of much to write for this review, because it's hard to criticise a book I enjoyed so much. It's such an easy book to get caught up in, and I didn't want to put it down until I'd found out what happened between Landon and Jamie.
A Walk to Remember truly is a beautiful book. It's a touching feel-good book with a bittersweet ending which is easy to fall in love with. I'm sure it's not the kind of book which will appeal to everyone, but I would wholly recommend it to anyone and everyone. I'm so glad I read this book, and will probably re-read it many more times!
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