Rating: PG for mild language and situations
Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Mandy Moore naysayers please step aside. I’m among the newly converted of the 17-year old Pop Princess turned movie actress.
Am I getting sappy in my old age? Maybe, but I found a lot to like about this teen romance (set in sleepy 1950s Beaufort, North Carolina) that utilizes old clichés and manages to make them feel fresh. Moore is Jamie Sullivan, an upbeat, star-gazing, Church-going high school senior with a long list of life to-dos: be in two places at once, get a tattoo, experience a miracle, and so on. Existing in her universe but not her consciousness is Landon Carter (Shane West), an aimless, moody bad-boy whose unhappy purpose in life is to look and feel cool.
Conveniently (in a movie sense), Landon gets himself into a speck o’trouble, and is forced to perform community service by tutoring underprivileged kids, taking up the janitor’s broom, and performing in the Drama Club’s Spring play. In short order, Landon is in over his head and reluctantly seeks Jamie’s help.
Polar opposites find common ground when repeatedly thrown together. The girl of unshakable faith and the boy with no faith at all find themselves falling in love. For personal and private reasons, Jamie retreats, unwilling to commit to a sentiment that’s impossible to deny.
Sounds like a shipment of saccharine, but as delivered by these two fine young actors the story is rendered poignant and evocative. Jamie’s unflagging spirit in the face of misfortune is nothing short of inspirational, and Landon’s transformation into a confident young man who trusts in himself is sweetly gratifying. The love that these two young people share is innocent, uplifting, and oddly comforting in these violently troubled times. Daryl Hannah and Peter Coyote as wary single parents have little to do but spout adult wisdom and make meals, merely existing for narrative support.
Mandy Moore can belt out a tune - nothing new on that front. When girl meets boy (musically speaking) in the Spring play, I was awash in emotion. That tears it – I am getting old.