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Film / Dear John (1964)

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Dear John (Käre John) is a 1964 film from Sweden directed by Lars-Magnus Lindgren.

It's a story of romance between two lonely people. John Berndtsson is captain of a small freighter working the Baltic. Some time ago he came home early from a business trip and found his wife in bed with his business partner; he got divorced and has been single ever since. Anita is a waitress in a cafe. When she was 18 she had a brief relationship with a man who knocked her up and abandoned her. Now she's a single mom raising a four-year old daughter, Helena.

John's ship pulls into Anita's little coastal village for a two-day layover. John stops in to eat at Anita's cafe, and asks the lovely waitress out for dinner. Will two lonely hearts find love?

Despite the title, does not feature the trope "Dear John" Letter. No connection with the other works by this name, like the British TV series Dear John, the American remake of that series, or the 2010 Channing Tatum movie.

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Tropes:

  • Anachronic Order: The use of the Framing Device facilitates this. The film continually flits back and forth between the various flashbacks—John's Home-Early Surprise, John's drunken first meeting with Anita, John and Anita's romantic day at the beach and the zoo.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: One of John's sailors is very interested in how his date with Anita went.
    "So did you screw her? Look as though you did."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: There are some flashbacks to earlier moments, like when John caught his wife cheating on him, but the story proper takes place over two days.
  • Fanservice: An amount of nudity that is extremely tame by 21st century standards but startled American critics in 1964. Anita's shapely bottom as she lounges in bed with John, Anita topless from the back as she changes into a swimsuit, John Skinny Dipping with his naughty bits hidden by a Scenery Censor.
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  • Framing Device: Much of the film is told through a framing device in which Anita and John, lounging in bed together after sex, talk about their day.
  • Home-Early Surprise: John tells a rueful story about how his wife talked him into forming a business partnership with another man. He came home early after a voyage and caught them in bed together, and thus lost his marriage and his house.
    John: The only thing we were partners in was her.
  • Meet Cute: Anita tells John that this is not actually the first time that they've met. He came in to the cafe good and drunk one night after finding out about his wife.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Some of the flashbacks/memories are repeated with greater meaning later in the film after the audience has learned more. Anita's odd comment "I'm not Anita" is clarified later, when we find out her name is actually Anna and she told John a different name. When it's time for John's boat to leave, he asks when the cafe opens so he can some say goodbye, and instead of telling him she asks him to kiss her. That's because she knows she is about to go on a vacation to her mom's house with Helena.
  • Scenery Censor: The scene where John goes back for his shorts after skinny dipping in the bay is framed so that the dock covers his privates.
  • Second Love: Helena was impregnated and abandoned by a man four years ago. John's wife cheated on him. They find true love with each other.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Lonely Anita is swept off her feet by John, but is wary of talking about the future after she was burned four years ago.
  • Skinny Dipping: John goes skinny dipping in the ocean. Anita catches him and gets an eyeful, but pretends that she doesn't, closing her eyes and sunbathing as he skulks back and puts his shorts on.
  • Talking in Bed: The Framing Device has John and Anita in bed after sex, talking about the day they had and sharing stories of the past.
  • Title Drop: Anita addresses John as "Dear John" three times. The first is after he leaves the apartment in a snit, and she chases him down and begs him not to leave her alone. The second is when John opens the package left on the boat, and finds the record that they listened to together, with her note enclosed. The third time is at the end, when John calls her and asks her to marry him and she accepts.
  • Toplessness from the Back: A little bit of Fanservice as Anita changes into a swimsuit.
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