Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A Walk to Remember: Not Your Average Teen Romance

Starring: Mandy Moore, Shane West
Category: Romance For the movie and book comparison, click here.

For some reason or the other, this is one of those movies that I have been putting off seeing for some reason or the other. Maybe because I thought it was just a shallow vehicle for pop star Mandy Moore. Maybe because I didn't like Shane West's acting, having sufferred through his performance in Get Over It. Maybe because I thought it was just another teen movie.
Apparently, I was wrong (again). A Walk To Remember is a heartfelt, emotional movie about growing up, finding yourself and finding that special someone. And dealing with the notion that time here on Earth is limited and that time should be used wisely.
Jamie Sullivan and Landon Carter are like in most teen movies, worlds apart. While serving his sentence for getting into trouble, he crosses paths with her. In two ways, while teaching under privelidged kids and in the school play. I think what struck him about her was that she didn't care who he was. She was determined to treat him the same as everyone else. Which means that she will be kind and compassiontate with him regardless of how he treats her.
Jamie does have a slight mean streak when it came to dealing with Landon and his friends as evident in her comebacks / retorts and when she taught Landon about how to ask help from her. On second thought, it may have been her self-defense mechanism, to keep everyone or just boys, at bay. She seemed to be friendly to everyone but has no circle of friends of her own.
Suffice to say, the school play draws them together. Landons is struck by how beautiful she is at the play and impromptu kiss from him awakens something in her. She hides it at first but a series of events brings them closer and leads to a full-blown romance. An adult romance, where it is not about infatuation but accepting the reality of one another. And reality soon hits home hard. I don't want to spoil things just in case you are like me and have put off seeing this. But it is pretty safe to say, as in any Nicholas Sparks books/movies, someone dies in the end.
".. an adult romance.. accepting the reality of one another."

The movie tends to drift into a mellowdrama at times but I guess only when necessary. I mean you can't face death without being mellowdramatic. Watching it a couple times, I found the plot holes quite gaping and that some dialogue didn't make sense. Some of it is explained in the commentary with the director, Adam Sullivan and the two leads and most are legitimate due to cutting and time restrictions.
But some are quite serious. Like we know that the flyer incident brought Landon and Jamie closer, especially when he stood up for her. But before that when he approaches her at school after the play and says that he misses being with her, I went 'Huh?'. All we see is Landon going to her house once to read their lines. And then all the rehersal scenes are with someone else or those that he has little direct contact. We don't see them connect. We don't see them share moments together. We don't see them communicate. There were several things that alluded to it, like Landon listening to songs given by Jamie and the other kids referencing to how close they were getting. But we never see it. It was all sorta left out or glossed over. A scene showing them reading lines together could have done the trick.
Alright. When he said that he missed being with her, it could have been just a line. After all it was Landon that went after her. And he totally called on her about her attitude of keeping people at a distance. I'm just saying that I didn't see what made Landon had feelings for Jamie to begin with. Maybe he was stunned by how good she looked at the play, thus the kiss. But that was it.

So what made me really like the movie? To a degree, the story. The journey of growth in both characters. The romantic moments and how both of them reacted in them. But what really drew me were the leads. Shane West was good. At times he felt like he was playing shades of his other characters or even himself. But in the end he was all believable as Landon. But the revelation was Mandy Moore as Jamie. Unlike most Hollywood generated-teens, Jamie was no where near stereotypical as the other teens in the movie. Not to say that it was any intention that the other teen movies to be stereotypical, but their level of reality pales in comparison. She is confident, devout, well-grounded and smart. Though she posesses a strong Christian faith, it does not make her meek nor frail. She definitely does not 'turn the other cheek' as best shown in her comeback to Dean's 'compliment' on her sweater.
Jamie is an amazing character. Maybe it was because she was based on a real person. She didn't have as much screen time as Landon did but her character well fleshed out. Her dialouge often was more meaningful and implied more than what was said.
What blew me away was Mandy Moore's acting. Granted that she was closer to her character's age than Shane was, in fact younger I think, but that shouldn't take any credit away from her. A lot of it was the little things. The way she pronounced stuff was totally real, like a teenager would, especially when she sorta mumbled or talked like she had her cheeks full. Her expressions were spot on. She looked earnestly angry at Landon after he blew her off at school and you could almost see her thoughts when she told him to read her mind. When the cool kids altered her photo and made fun of her in front of the entire school, she could have simply burst crying. But she doesn't. Instead you can see the internal struggle within her on her face, the desire to apply her faith, perhaps to forgive thy enemy, while at the same time feeling angry and betrayed and wanting to react harshly against them. Watch it. It's only for a few seconds but it holds the promise of a future great actress.
Listening to her on the commentary tracks gave me a new apreciation of her performance because she sounded nothing like Jamie. Their verbal expressions, inflections and at times intonations were very different. Their attitudes were also totally the opposite. While Jamie was mature and confident in her convictions and faith, confident enough to show her emotions and not care about what other people might think, Mandy on the other hand is very self concious, she hated the stuff Jamie wore, very youthful and bubbly. She evens admits that she learned a lot, about life maybe, playing her character. Her choice of roles, or at least opportunities opened to her, since have not been great and more in the teen sense of things. But Mandy should realise her strength is playing strong women. Now all she has to do is fight over with the numerous other talented actresses for those few coveted roles.
I cannot believe how affected I was by the movie. At first, I loved that Toploader's 'Dancing in the Moonlight' and New Radical's 'Someday We'll Know' was in the movie. But what really moved me was Jamie's and Landon's love story and their respective journeys. For Landon it was more overt or obvious. He found direction in his life, at first in Jamie's faith in him, that he was capable of more than what he was doing and later in his love for Jamie, that he could face and accept the end of things in life and moving on, having faced and accepted Jamie's departure and in accepting his fathers decision to start a new life with someone else. For Jamie it was very subtle. He showed her what it meant and felt to fall in love and what joy love can bring to her life. While she had faith in God, the love they shared both tested her faith and ultimately reinforced it.
In a way, they both saved each other. She gave him a sense of purpose and showed the power of having faith while he showed her life and love she has not seen before and in a way eased her passing.

I think there was a strong message of choosing between blind faith and cynicism. That the solution is neither but somewhere in-between.
Although she was a Christian and a Minister's daughter, Christianity was not a focus of the move. Instead of being preachy, Jamie chose to be the values she cherished and let that be an example for others around her.
The movie's message about faith has to do with more about believing in oneself and in the good in others.

The Relationship
In all fairness, I think Jamie had been attracted to Landon at some level prviously. Landon is established as the heart-throb of the school, thus the neverending admirers and 'hi's and 'hello's in the hallway. It wouldn't be below her as a normal high school girl to at least look at him and consider the possibilities. Maybe it was because she had considered it that the warning about not to fall in love with her came about.

In a way, the greatest gift Landon and Jamie got was that they were spared from the downside of a marriage, things that come later in life, once the novelty wears out. The time that they were married was short and thus, still sweet. But is it that way? To think of it, they had the worse downside, the short time they realized they had together. Perhaps with this realization, they made most of what they had. They probably let the small stuff go. They didn't linger on things that in the end meant very little. There was no time. When you realize that your time together is limited, the value of everything becomes clear. How many of us think that we are going to live forever? Do we really dwell on the important stuff or those that are trivial?
This movies moves emotions and sets you thinking. Just watch it with an open mind.

If you want to know, I've wrote on how different the movie is from the book.

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