Film: “The Best Of Me”; Cast: James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Caroline Goodall, Sebastian Arcelus, Gerald McRaney; Director: Michael Hoffman; Rating: ***
Do you believe in the stars, romance and second chances in life? If you do, then this film is for you.
The story captures the enduring power of true love and the wrenching choices one faces when confronted with second chances.
Based on the novel of the same name by Nicolas Spark, “The Best Of Me” is the elusive love story of star-crossed lovers, Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier.
Set in New Orleans, the film begins in a dramatic manner capturing the routine on an oil-rig in the high seas, where Dawson (James Marsden) is reading Stephen Hawking’s book “The Grand Design”. He looks up at the sky to see the stars and he gets nostalgic.
On a parallel track, we witness Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) as the dutiful Mrs. Reynolds telling her son that destiny is written in the stars.
This is followed by a mishap on the oil-rig. Dawson survives a 100 feet fall in the cold waters of the high sea after seeing an illusion.
And soon after the death of a close friend and mentor of Dawson, Tuck (Gerald McRaney) an elderly widower, the duo reunite after 21 years of being apart.
Narrated in a non-linear manner, we learn that Dawson is hardworking, practical and as a matter-of-fact, sincere. He is the unconventional, youngest son in a family of thugs governed by an abusive father. On the other hand, Amanda is the romantic who believes in the stars and is the only daughter of her wealthy parents.
Soon, the two high school sweethearts find themselves at the cross-roads of romance, when they realise that their backgrounds and circumstances are not conducive to a healthy future.
While the story unfolds in two time frames, we are hooked by the perfect casting and right doses of melodrama replete with elements of love and loss.
Marsden and Monaghan play the older version, while Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato play their younger versions. Their on-screen chemistry reflects in their performances and they are well supported by the rest of the cast.
Though predictable in its approach, the scenes make your heart flutter, smile and weep with the highs and lows of the tale.
With his soft wide-angled lenses, cinematographer Oliver Stapleton captures nature and the lovers in the right spirit. The golden-hued tones on the gleaming surface of the pond, the sun-lit halo on Amanda’s hair and the lovers’ embrace on the cottage verandah offer picture perfect romantic frames.
Also, Patrizia von Brandenstein’s production design along with the flashy cars coupled with costume designer Ruth E.Carter’s splendid outfits and the exotic locales adds to the viewing experience.
In totality, Hoffman and his team capture the flamboyance of the 1990s along with the lilting background score in style, making it an ideal film for a romantic date.
For others, it would be a mushy entertainer nevertheless.