In general, I don’t care for romance movies. It’s not that I’m a guy and prefer explosions in action movies, but rather because so many romance movies are painfully formulaic and predictable. Of course, I’ve come across some exceptions that I enjoyed. I liked Lake House, and No Reservations wasn’t too bad. But while A Walk to Remember (2002) has some positive qualities to it, it was so predictable and standardized that it was difficult to take very seriously.
Set in a lovely coastal North Carolina port. Cocky, popular high school senior Landon Carter (Shane West) is the big man on campus until a hazing incident leaves a fellow student hospitalized. Landon is sentenced to community service and membership in schools drama club. He is forced to seek help from Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), the conservative, religious, plain-Jane daughter of the town’s Baptist minister (Peter Coyote). In spite of their divergent social status, the two inevitably fall in love. Landon struggles with the drop in popularity that this love interest brings while Jamie is forced to deal with her strict father and a secret that she’s keeping from her schoolmates.
There really are some good qualities to this movie. One of the things that stands out to me so much is the actual love interest between the two main characters. There isn’t an overt sexual interest that stems from checking out or groping one another’s bodies. In fact, this is a very modest, innocent, and sweet love story that seems devoid of sexual tension. I imagine that conservatives would enjoy A Walk to Remember since it depicts romance in a way that is often overshadowed by sexualized “reality television” and movies that objectify women as sex objects.
A Walk to Remember is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Sparks writes a lot of what he refers to as “love stories,” which are different from “romance stories” according to him. In a USA Today interview, he essentially criticizes bland, mainstream romance authors such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Ernest Hemingway, while claiming that he does something wholly unique and unpredictable. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion since he only seems to tell one story in each of his novels that he cranks out on an annual basis. There is a great Cracked.com article that describes this irony in more detail, but watch out for spoilers.
Like most teen movies, the adults in A Walk to Remember did seem to be in place to prevent the teenagers from attaining their goals and ruining their fun. But on the other hand, the adults generally had a reason for it. Jamie’s father, for example, is concerned about Landon’s budding relationship with Jamie as any father would. This is in part because he is worried about Landon’s reputation and Jamie’s safety, but also to prevent any potential broken-hearted feelings that Jamie’s secret would probably invoke. I also liked how after Landon learns some humility through his relationship with Jamie, he finds himself needing advice and help from the grownups in his life and has to reconcile with his father who left him and his mother for another woman. That made his character more deep and meaningful; he’s still a stereotypical romance story hero, but that’s a genuinely unforeseen bit of character development for such a clichéd teen movie.
The script in A Walk to Remember was encumbered with superbly cheesy lines and situations that serve no purpose other than to jerk tears. For some reason Landon takes an interest in memorizing his lines for the drama club’s play, and wouldn’t you know it, the lines that we hear from the play have overt implications to the main plot. I don’t think anyone’s done that before, except perhaps every movie that has ever featured a play in it. Anyway, Landon awkwardly asks Jamie for help with his lines. She agrees and says, “You have to promise you won't fall in love with me.” Seriously, who says that kind of thing to someone who has been mean and rude? The dialogue is so sickly sweet and syrupy I felt like I needed to brush my teeth after watching the movie. On top of that it was so blatantly predictable that I accurately quoted lines several times before they were spoken, having never seen the movie before.
A Walk to Remember was sweet, sincere, and positive. It’s also bland, syrupy, and an overwrought, weepy teen love story. For viewers who enjoy romantic movies this will be a compassionate tearjerker about hope and inspiration. For most anyone else it’s a tedious melodrama that gives the unrealistic impression that 17-year-old boys aren’t just after one thing. It’s not groundbreaking cinema by any means. It’s highly conservative and grows increasingly sentimental as it goes on, but shows us some good examples of those qualities. Was A Walk to Remember good? Yeah, it was alright, I guess. Did I like it? No. But even I felt vaguely caught up in the love between Jamie and Landon as they slowly danced under the star filled sky.
What is your favorite romance movie? Comment below and tell me why!