This movie is supposed to be a modern holy grail of chick flicks, so I watched it because I love me a good romance. I’m sorry to say that it left me cold – I didn’t hate it but nothing about it tugged on my heart-strings. Nope, not even the Alzheimer’s storyline.
Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, it tells the story of two young lovers in the 1940s, as narrated by an elderly man in the present day to a fellow nursing home patient, who suffers from dementia. Noah (Ryan Gosling) is poor, Allie (Rachel McAdams) is a rich heiress, they fall in love to the disapproval of her snooty parents, part ways, then meet again years later when Allie is engaged to a Mr Right who ticks all of her parents’ boxes and seems a decent guy. He’s played by James Marsden, who at one point got seriously typecast playing the second-choice sweet guys, so no prizes for guessing where it’s all going. Also no prizes for guessing who the elderly couple in the present timeline really are.
I’m pretty sure that Gosling and McAdams are the main reason for the movie’s cult status; they’re beautiful and appealing as hell, have a genuinely great chemistry, and yeah that kissing-in-the-rain scene is iconic for a reason. Unfortunately while they made the movie watchable, they couldn’t save it from drowning in clichés and treacle.
I feel that, with escapist romantic movies, it’s often pretty pointless to criticise their unrealistic nature, since they tend to exist in their own heightened universe where love is everything. So I can accept a scene where a guy asks a girl to lie down in the middle of the road and watch traffic lights change in order to show that she’s capable of trust as romantic (in real life, I’d tell the guy where to go in no uncertain terms). And if anything, there’s something admirable about the way the movie commits to its melodrama so whole-heartedly, without a shred of cynicism or self-consciousness.
But while Allie and Noah are likeable they’re pretty bland characters, and I generally like my romantic movies to have more than a list of tired cliches, heavy-handed symbolism and developments you can see from miles away. I just couldn’t engage with it no matter how hard it worked to make me cry; it’s far from horrendous, but too basic for my liking.