The Best of Me (2014) Review

Following an explosion on his oil rig, Dawson (James Marsden) has a glimpse of the girl he loved from his teenage years. Elsewhere, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is home with her alcoholic husband and teenage son, wondering what went wrong in her life and thinking of her first true love. When the news that their old friend Tuck (Gerald McRaney) has passed away, Dawson and Amanda are reunited and assigned to spread Tuck’s ashes. As well as confront the ghosts of their past from their youth.

The film is an adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. While I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the novel, I found the film to be much better. The love story and history of the two lead characters and fleshed out more, as was the character of Tuck. While it did feature some major differences in the last act, it worked well. That aside, as a film, it is a very sweet love story (not as great as some of Sparks’ prior films however). As we watch the story unfold between Amanda and Dawson as adults, we are given flashbacks to them as teenagers (played by Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato), which leads to where they find themselves today. Bracey and Liberato provide great performances as the younger Dawson and Amanda, they’re great on their own, and have great chemistry to where we really buy them as couple. Bracey plays Younger Dawson with charm and innocence. Liberato shines as Younger Amanda. We initially see her as this pretty and bubbly girl, but she has an edge to her that Liberato shows off flawlessly. James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan play the older versions of the two characters. While the chemistry isn’t nearly as concrete as the younger versions, we do get a decent feel of a relationship between the two. On their own, Monaghan gives the better performance of the two as a woman torn between the life of her past and the life she currently has. Marsden’s performance, while not terrible, is hardly note-worthy. He definitely could have given more heart into the role as opposed to charm. One of the most note-worthy performances of the film however is Gerald McRaney as Tuck from the couple’s younger years. We first see him as a hard-ass old man, but he grows to show his heart when these two teens come into his life. McRaney provides the most humor and heart in the story and easily becomes the most likable character in the movie. Like most Nicholas Sparks movies, it will only appeal to certain crowds. It has its really cheesy moments, but deep down there is a lot to its core, apart from dealing with love, it deals with life in general and where it takes us and where we can go from there.

The Best of Me features decent to solid performances with heart-felt and tear-jerking moments. However in the long run it doesn’t set itself too far apart from the Nicholas Sparks formula.

My Rating: 8/10

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