Hollywood has no shortage of romance films for audiences to enjoy. Since the early days of motion pictures, filmmakers have regularly told love stories. As a result, there is a lot of competition out there. Thus, it’s important that filmmakers seeking to create a movie in this genre make smart choices throughout the production to ensure that it manages to capture the audience’s attention.
Released in 2010, Dear John is based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name. The film succeeds in a competitive genre by adhering to convention when necessary and defying it at other times. The result is one of the more memorable romance films in recent years. Here are a few of the smart decisions that the filmmakers made to achieve this goal.
Choosing a Timely Story
It’s not uncommon for classic Hollywood love stories to tie in with current or recent events. For example, From Here to Eternity, which was released not long after the end of World War II, tells the story of soldiers in Hawaii during the lead-up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although the film still had to be well-made in order to earn its status as a beloved classic, this tactic helps. Romance movies can help audiences to work through their emotions about the state of the world by exploring hopeful themes.
That’s one of the main reasons why audiences embraced Dear John. Its title character is a soldier on leave who falls in love with a young woman months before 9/11. By contextualizing a love story against the backdrop of recent history, the filmmakers told a personal story on a much larger canvas. The inherent danger of war also adds to the drama of the film.
Many romance films fail because there isn’t much genuine conflict. Two characters fall in love, and while they may struggle to make their relationship work, the challenges they face aren’t enough to keep them apart.
That’s not the case with Dear John. The two characters who fall in love in this film may not be able to be together. The character of John is on leave when he meets the character of Savannah. The audience knows he’ll soon be returning to war. However, the characters don’t yet know about the events of 9/11 yet. They’re not given a chance to even genuinely prepare for the drama that is about to unfold in their lives, which results in genuine conflict that elevates the entire story.
Casting Likeable Actors
No matter how talented a filmmaker is, he or she can’t make a successful romance if the actors playing the lead characters aren’t likeable. Audiences attend these movies because they want to see people whom they’d like to be friends with fall in love. If the two main characters don’t make the right impression on an audience, then no one watching the film will genuinely care about their story.
Smart casting is essential for a love story to work. Luckily, the team behind Dear John understood this fact.
They selected Channing Tatum to play the character of John. While audiences had not yet had many opportunities to learn about Tatum’s skills as a comedic performer, he’d already proven himself to be the kind of actor who simply brings a good-natured quality to every role he plays. Channing Tatum is not only attractive, but he seems like the kind of actor who treats other people well. In other words, he’s perfect for the protagonist of a movie like Dear John.
Amanda Seyfried stars opposite Tatum as Savannah, his love interest. Seyfried initially caught the eye of audiences in Mean Girls, and since then she’s made sometimes unconventional career choices, starring in films like Jennifer’s Body, Mamma Mia!, and Chloe. In doing so, she didn’t merely prove that she’s a capable performer who can realistically play many different types of characters. She also demonstrated an intelligence that allowed her character in Dear John to stand out.
Too often in romance films, one character is the primary focus, while the other half of the couple simply serves as the object of affection. By casting Amanda Seyfried, the filmmakers gave audiences a character with strength and intelligence all her own.
Placing Characters in Challenging Situations
Again, the right degree of conflict is essential in the romance genre. Characters in these types of movies are often forced to make decisions that may prevent them from being with those whom they love.
In Dear John, it is understandable why those characters would make such decisions. While John loves Savannah, he also loves his country. He’d planned on leaving the army and starting a life with her, but after the United States is attacked, he feels compelled to re-enlist. Although this prevents him from being with Savannah, the audience certainly understands why he made this decision.
For her part, Savannah must try to maintain a relationship with a man who is now in another part of the world and in constant danger. This is by no means an easy situation for her. The audience perfectly understands when she is no longer able to stand by him.
Sometimes, great romance movies blend hope with sadness, exploring the vast complexities of life in only a few short hours. Dear John is one of those movies, and that’s why it succeeds where many others fail.