Film: The Best Of Me
Cast: James Marsden, Luke Bracey, Michelle Monaghan, Liana Liberato
Director: Michael Hoffman
They say, ‘love is hard to find, very difficult to keep and almost impossible to forget.’
You are free to not believe it, but then you have to avoid a confrontation with Michael Hoffman, who has come up with a film totally meant for die-hard romantics.
And guess what? He actually succeeds in bringing back the nostalgia attached to first love, that one face you always adored but never talked about since starting your first job. You remember that rose which is still the boundary between two phases of your life, one with love and the other with practical love.
The film is based on Nicholas Sparks’ homonymous novel, an author widely regarded the master of love that is painful, depressing yet soul stirring. His imagery will transport you to a glossy world and then will seek permanent attention if you start thinking of things you've missed out in life.
Successive filmmakers have exploited Sparks’ vivid description of love as a path to nirvana in several productions such as A Walk To Remember and The Notebook. This time Hoffman sets his trap around the viewers with a love story that explores the possibilities of an ever elusive second chance.
Am I sounding like a person who is deep into cheesy films? But aren’t love and compassion two virtues running the world? Anyway, no more spilling the beans and let's get back to the basic storyline of the film.
Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) is having a tough time saving money to get admission in a better college when he meets Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato), a cool-breeze-on-a-hot-afternoon sort of a girl. Dawson’s abusive father pushes him to leave home and start living with a benevolent man Tuck (Gerald McRaney).
The young and introvert, somewhat anti-social Dawson falls in love with Amanda but as you know there is no tragedy worse than love, so something drastic happens (watch the film to figure this out) and the two lovebirds get separated. They meet after 20 years to realise that the spark is still there but arriving at a decision is not easy as the now much older Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is married with a child and Dawson (James Marsden) has a tainted past and a habit of running away from the right thing at the wrong moment.
See, there is nothing extraordinary about this story and we have seen hundred of films on this theme but we occasionally come across such films which celebrate the pain of separation in a positive way, in a manner that binds the broken pieces of your heart together. In a nutshell, it is more about that abandoned feeling than a comprehensive plot.
The premise is set at a place where life is not as severe as it would be in a city running on tube, escalators and supersonic lifts. No mobile phones, no jazzy restaurants and dollops of cheesy romance make it easy for the spectator to believe that there is actually a world like that. You know things like climbing over the top of a water tank and sitting there for hours or swimming together in a makeshift pool or watching the sunset together with fire burning in the kiln.
Hoffman is very clear in his mind about the feeling he wants to evoke and it makes him stretch some scenes a bit more than required. Personally, I didn’t mind that but it depends on your appetite for reminiscence and of course melancholy. And, there is a trick to it as well. You’ll notice the light seeping from the edges of the frame and making the shot look a shade whiter and the characters a bit more fragile and soft. Filmmakers have been using such tactics for long; Still it gives the desired results if executed perfectly. The slow motion panning of the camera with the sequencing closing on the furnace has been there for many years but Hoffman does it again, with brilliance.
There are unnecessary elements as well but thankfully they come as supplements to the basic thread. Dawson’s second outing with his father seems forced only to keep the story moving in a forward direction in order to keep the tempo rising. I was happy with dialogues like, “You want me to fall in love with you. How shall I do it when I never stopped.”
That reminds me, it was literally copied in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Or, “How often is the mechanic the hero of the story.” But, the constraints (read love for melodrama) of the visual medium inspire the director to elongate the climax by a good 10 minutes. This strategy has immensely diluted the value of an otherwise well told love story.
Some scenes will make you uneasy in your chair. For instance, Dawson Cole survives in a deadly accident and the doctor asks him in the hospital whether he would like to call someone and his face is blank. This happens to a man who was once the ideal careless neighbourhood youth. Similarly, there is this scene when Dawson wants to know about Amanda’s current life and she very playfully stops him only to cry in solitude.
Luke Bracey as young Dawson Cole and Liana Liberato as young Amanda are the stars of The Best Of Me. They run the show with ease, elegance and a lot of fire. Liana Liberato conveys the ecstasy of a heart in love with absolute finesse while Michelle Monaghan (Older Amanda) brings out the maturity of the character.
Yes, hopeless romantics would fall for The Best Of Me but this is just an understatement. It’s a well made film which may become one of the most viewed films on TV in due course of time. Basically, if you want to recall those days when you cried for your lover’s sorrows then this is the right film for you.