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Film / Dear John

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Dear John is a 2010 romantic war drama film, directed by Lasse Hallström, based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. It stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, with supporting performances by Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas.

John Tyree (Tatum), on leave from the Army Special Forces, returns to his hometown in the Outer Banks to spend time with his father (Jenkins) and surf. Savannah Curtis (Seyfried) is on Spring Break from college with her friends. While surfing, John takes notice when Savannah accidentally drops her purse off the side of a pier into the ocean. After John dives in to save it, they strike up a tenuous relationship, which continues after he is redeployed. Due to the sometimes remoteness of John's assignments, they correspond with each other through a series of letters.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Ending: After retiring from the Army, John and Savannah share a hug while meeting at a coffee shop. The future of their relationship is left open.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Upon reuniting (due to John's father's death), Savannah laments to John about the expensive medical treatment her husband, Tim, would need to survive. Afterward, we see John selling the majority of his father's coin collection. Savannah later writes him and relates how an anonymous donor gave a substantial amount of money to Tim's medical fund, which allows Tim to survive for two months longer.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: John doesn't say much, but he is a veteran Green Beret with some rage issues. Randy and Tim both find this out the hard way when Randy pushes a few too many of John's buttons, and he curbstomps them both.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: Upon receiving the titular letter from Savannah, John proceeds to burn all the letters she had previously sent.
  • "Dear John" Letter: Duh. John himself seems to be the only character surprised when he gets one.
  • Diving Save: As part of the Meet Cute, John dives off a pier to rescue Savannah's purse.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Yes, Savannah writes the titular letter, but all of her letters begin with the phrase, so the title also refers to their entire relationship.
  • Dull Surprise: John is a very quiet and introverted man, and most of his emotional moments are quite subdued.
  • Forever Fling: John and Savannah fall in love within two weeks and attempt to stay together despite John's overseas military service. The distance weighs on Savannah and she breaks up with John, but she never stops loving him despite marrying Tim. It's implied that she and John get back together after Tim dies.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: A flashback to John's teenage years shows him raging at his father after the latter made a large purchase for his coin collection, leading to their electricity being shut off.
  • Hollywood Healing: John takes two high-powered rifle rounds the the chest, and makes a good enough recovery to return to full active service. Even with the best medical attention, it's unlikely he wouldn't face lasting effects of it.
  • Iconic Item: John's father collects rare coins. The rarest and most valuable item in the collection is a specific Mule Coin (a coin that was created through an error in minting, where each side is stamped with the symbol of a different coin) that John got as change from an ice cream truck as a child. After his father's death, John sells the collection except for this specific coin, which he keeps with him as a good-luck charm during deployment.
  • Lonely Funeral: An extreme and sad example in with Mr. Tyree, who was hardly a bad person, but misunderstood and speculatively suffering from Asperger Syndrome. There was only one attendee at his funeral, the titular John.
  • In Medias Res: The film opens with John suffering from grievous wounds on the battlefield, as he narrates a letter describing his thoughts while bleeding out. The film then flashes back to several years previously.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Channing Tatum spends a good number of scenes shirtless and surfing. However, in nearly every scene in between, he's either wearing variations of his Army uniform, or a loose-fitting hoodie, making these scenes stand out all the more.
  • Period Piece: The film begins in the spring of 2001, but was released in 2010.
  • Poor Communication Kills: What drives the plot. Neither John nor Savannah are very good at talking about their feelings or issues. This is compounded when, during John's deployments, they communicate purely by letter. Savannah ends up cheating on John for months and getting engaged between letters. Enforced with Mr. Tyree, whose condition has made it immensely difficult to talk about nearly anything but his coin collection.
  • Relationship Reveal: John assumes that Savannah married Randy, given that he obviously had the hots for her and came from the same social circle. He's stunned to see her wedding picture and realize that she married Tim.
  • The Topic of Cancer: One of Savannah's reasons for marrying Tim. He's dying of Lymphoma.
  • Tragic Dream: Savannah wanted to open an Equine Therapy summer camp for autistic children, calling it "Horse Sense". She and Tim were successful for one summer, but the finances of running such a place, combined with Tim's worsening health, cause it to fall apart.
  • The War on Terror: John is nearly finished with his service when 9/11 occurs. This inspires him to re-enlist for an additional four years.
  • Watching the Reflection Undress: John watches Savannah undress by her reflection in the mirror.