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SYNOPSIS: A pair of former high school sweethearts (James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan) reunite after many years when they return to visit their small hometown.

Review by Louise Keller:
Grab a tissue and get ready to have your heartstrings tugged in this Nicholas Sparks melodrama, replete with its elements of love and loss. Like The Notebook, the narrative plays out in two timeframes: an impossible love affair involving a girl who trusts in the stars, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, his abusive father, a surrogate father plus twists and turns that make hearts flutter, smile and weep. The perfect date movie, the film is romantic in the purest sense with dramatic highs and lows that sweep you along - together with its beautiful settings and rousing score.

When the film begins, Dawson (James Marsden) is reading a Stephen Hawkins novel on the oilrig where he works. He looks at the star-filled sky deep in thought. Cut to Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) who is also looking at the stars from another part of the country, telling her teenage son she used to think that destiny was written in the stars.

So begins the story that reunites Dawson and Amanda after 20 years, triggered by a call from an estate attorney, advising them of the death of Tuck (Gerald McRaney), a mutual friend. He is the catalyst now, as he was years ago, when they first met.

In flashback, we learn the circumstances how Dawson meets Tuck, after his father (Sean Bridgers) violently abuses him and he is looking for somewhere to stay. We become involved in Dawson and Amanda's love story - how they meet, fall in love and face seemingly insurmountable problems involving both their families. Aussie hunk Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato are both appealing as the younger couple and the sparks ignite between them. He would risk everything for her and she wants to love him in the same way - that is the nature of their passionate relationship.

'I wouldn't mind doing this again,' Dawson says of their first kiss that naturally is followed by another - this time sitting on the roof in the rain. Doesn't everyone kiss in the rain? The narrative flits back and forth throughout, the film's climax occurring when we learn what triggers the traumatic end of their relationship all those years ago.

Marsden and Monaghan are delightful together and while it is easy to sense their chemistry, it is hard to reconcile Bracey being the younger version of Marsden - their physicality is totally different. Of course the melodramatic nature of the storyline with its high drama plot points is par for the course and tears rolled down my cheek on several occasions, no doubt to the tempo of director Michael Hoffman's baton. Perfect for a girls' night out or for that special night with that special someone.

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(US, 2014)

CAST: James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Caroline Goodall, Clarke Peters

PRODUCER: Justin Burns, Denise Di Novi, Russ Kavanaugh, Ryan Kavanaugh, Theresa Park, Nicholas Sparks

DIRECTOR: Michael Hoffman

SCRIPT: J. Mills Goodloe, Will Fetters (novel by Nicholas Sparks)


EDITOR: Matt Chesse

MUSIC: Aaron Zigman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrizia von Brandenstein

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 30, 2014

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