A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Best of Me is a heart-wrenching tale based on one of author Nicholas Sparks' novels. The story (as anyone familiar with Sparks' romances could predict) is a weepy romance with dramatic twists and some heavy themes -- including child abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, adultery, and murder. There are a couple of love scenes that don't show nudity but do feature close-ups of bare skin, passionate kissing, and touching. The language is occasionally strong (one "f---king," plus several uses of "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more), and the violence can be intense and upsetting, particularly because it involves a father and his cronies beating up a son and wielding weapons against one another. Despite its heavy themes, the movie does have some positive messages, most notably about the power of forgiveness and the importance of being with someone who helps bring out the best in you.
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What's the story?
Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, THE BEST OF ME follows two time periods in the main characters' lives. It starts in the present, when Dawson Cole (James Marsden) is nearly killed in an oil rig explosion but has a vision of his first love Amanda and manages to survive. He's reunited with Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), now a stay-at-home mom, for the first time in 21 years when they're both summoned to their Louisiana hometown to settle the estate of their dear friend (and in Dawson's case, father figure), Tuck (Gerald McRaney). As they deal with their lingering feelings for each other, the high-school sweethearts reminisce about their relationship. Back in 1992, young Dawson (Luke Bracey) was a quiet but hunky gearhead-meets-physics buff who wanted to get far away from his abusive, drug-dealing family of alpha males. Amanda (Liana Liberato), meanwhile, was beautiful, confident, and intelligent and wanted a guy who wasn't just a spoiled rich boy. After meeting-cute over broken-down cars, they eventually fall in love, but their disparate backgrounds and futures seem like insurmountable obstacles.
Is it any good?
Both sets of ridiculously attractive couples have the required chemistry to sell the "romance" part of this affecting romantic drama. Bracey does his best at capturing the broody young boy from the wrong side of town (the only kind of guy Sparks can write, apparently). He's not particularly charismatic -- that's all Liberato, who all but glows in her retro sun dresses while delivering encouraging, heartfelt monologues -- but it's easy to see why the filmmakers chose him; Bracey's got a soulful-hunk look that will play well with girls (and women) who like their romantic heroes quiet and gorgeous.
The lovers' grown-up versions are played by well-known actors Monaghan (who definitely pulls off being the older version of Liberato) and Marsden (who in no way looks like the adult counterpart of Bracey). These are accomplished actors who've made several romances, but even they can't make the mushy, maudlin story any less cliched (to the point that it's occasionally laughable). The movie has some legitimately poignant elements -- particularly the disturbingly violent relationship between young (and old) Dawson and his family -- but by the time the drama's twists are revealed, some in the audience will be too busy rolling their eyes to feel emotional.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of romantic movies in which first love overshadows any subsequent relationships. Why are movies about the power of first love so appealing? What kind of message do they send to teen audiences?
How does The Best of Me depict teen romance and sexual relationships? Do you think Amanda and Dawson's forever love is believable? How do they help bring out the "best" in each other? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Author Nicholas Sparks is known for weepy, heartbreaking stories with life-and-death twists. How does this adaptation compare to others based on his books?
- In theaters: October 17, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: February 3, 2015
- Cast: Liana Liberato, Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden
- Director: Michael Hoffman
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexuality, violence, some drug content and brief strong language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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