Author Nicholas Sparks is known for writing tearjerkers, and he has not disappointed us with his latest creation “The Best of Me.” Although the film did not receive great reviews, I enjoyed my time viewing it, especially because Netflix recently has had a glut of unacceptable dramas which are far from uplifting. Although this film is very sad, it was a beautiful story which deserved to receive praise from the critics. Unfortunately, Nicholas Sparks has become a controversial author, accused of formulaic writing.
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The two main characters, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) and Dawson (James Marsden), attend the same high school in their small, backwoods town. Their backgrounds are highly different. Amanda’s father is a successful businessman who wants to give his daughter everything. Dawson’s father is a shady character who gives his son nothing but insults and beatings. Amanda and Dawson are nevertheless attracted to each other and spend time together.
After one serious beating, Dawson left his father’s house and found shelter in the garage of a town resident, Tuck Hostetler, a recent widower, who sympathized with Dawson and allowed him to continue living in his garage. He eventually had to bring Dawson into his home to protect him from unexpected visits from his father and like-minded brothers. Tuck soon regarded Dawson as his son and cared for his needs.
Amanda and Dawson were played by two younger characters in the early part of this tale. Liana Liberato portrayed the young Amanda, and an upcoming Australian actor, Luke Bracey, played young Dawson. Although Bracey did a creditable job of playing the young lead, the resemblance between him and the older Dawson was slim, if at all.
Dawson was invited to a backyard barbeque at Amanda’s house, meeting her parents for the first time. Amanda’s father took Dawson to see his collection of cars on the premises, and was surprised at Dawson’s knowledge of classical cars. He brought up the fact that Dawson was not in a position to finance his college education and offered him $80,000 on one condition - that he break off his ties with Amanda. Dawson refused his offer, left the party, intent on not seeing Amanda again. She followed him, told him she was sorry about her father’s offer, and they declared their love for each other.
While Dawson was heading to pick up Amanda for their prom, Dawson’s father and brothers visited Tuck’s home, ravaged his garden and beat up Tuck unmercifully. Dawson was driving with his cousin Aaron and his date, and remembered that he left Amanda’s corsage behind. When they went back to Tuck’s house, Tuck was lying unconscious on the ground. Dawson took a shotgun and he and Aaron went in search of his father and brothers.
A fatal mishap occurred and Aaron was mistakenly killed while Dawson and his father were fighting for possession of the gun. Dawson was sentenced to eight years in prison, not for the killing which was an accident, but because he brought the gun with intent to kill. He refused to allow Amanda to visit him in prison, and urged her to go to college and to forget about him. When Dawson finished his prison sentence, he obtained work on an oil rig, which he loved and at which he was successful.
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Twenty years later, both Dawson and Amanda receive a letter from a lawyer, stating that Tuck has died and that they are to appear for the reading of the will. Tuck has donated the bulk of his money to charity, but wants Dawson and Amanda to have his cottage and to spread his ashes over that property.
When Dawson and Amanda meet again after those many years, Amanda is extremely cool at first, and seems not willing to renew their friendship. She eventually warms up, as they clear out Tuck’s possessions in the cottage, and come across pictures and remembrances from the past. Amanda breaks down and tells Dawson that she has always loved him and was hurt that he would not allow her to stay in his life. They have one full day where they are happy together, swimming in the pond and, yes, making love. Dawson realizes though that they cannot have what they both want, since Amanda loves her son dearly and is committed to her marriage to her husband Frank, even though it has not been a happy marriage.
Once again, Dawson and Amanda go their separate ways. On arriving home, Amanda tries to tell Frank that their marriage has been a sham, and confesses that she spent the time away with Dawson.
Fast forward a short time later. Amanda has obtained a job, speaks about her ex, and seems happy. She leaves a message on Dawson’s voice mail, saying that she wants to talk to him, that she has always loved him. While waiting for his call, she receives another call - her son Jared has been in an automobile accident.
There is much more to this story. It has an unexpected, heartrending ending which no one could have predicted. It is not a happy ending, but it is an uplifting one. I enjoyed this story and recommend it to admirers as well as detractors of Nicholas Sparks’ work.
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The author lives in New Bern, North Carolina which is likely the reason that the majority of his novels have their main setting in North Carolina. Eight of Nicholas Sparks’ novels have been made into movies. They include: “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle,” “A Walk to Remember,” “Nights in Rodanthe,” “The Lucky One,” and “Safe Haven.”