I had not been allowed to see the movie, which was deemed ‘unsuitable’ with its subject matter of teenage romance. Mandy Moore was Jamie Sullivan, the good, religious girl in sensible twinsets, diagnosed with leukaemia. Shane West (remember him?) heartthrob of the early ‘00s thanks to teen fare like Get Over It! was Landon Carter, the perfectly-named bad boy who flunked classes, crashed cars and broke hearts. I think you can imagine what happens next.
It was unsuitable because – SPOILER ALERT, but c’mon, you’ve all seen the movie, right? – Landon ends up becoming Jamie’s Prince Charming, winning her heart by doing things like making her a telescope BY HAND so that she can see the comets in the sky and NAMING A STAR AFTER HER and then getting down on one knee and proposing marriage before she succumbs to her disease. It’s tearjerking, heartbreaking stuff. What parents don’t understand (or understand too well) is that this kind of thing is catnip to almost-teenage girls. Thus it ever was, and thus it always shall be. How else can we explain the universal, sugary appeal of Taylor Swift et al?
Anyway, reader, I saw the film. I fell in love with Landon – the bad boy with a heart of gold – thus setting in stone the archetype that would slowly fill the encyclopaedia of all my onscreen in crushes (Shia LaBeouf, Jared Leto, Jude Law). I cried my eyes out in a cinema full of preteen girls crying their eyes out at the end, which you saw coming a mile away and yet still was unspeakably moving. Remember at the end, when Landon, beautiful Landon, is standing on the jetty, ruminating on his shortlived relationship with kindhearted Jamie? Ugh. “Our love is like the wind. I can’t see it, but I can feel it.” Is it great cinema? No. Does it set preteens up for severe disappointment? Most definitely. But I loved it with all my heart. Which is something, aged 11.
If that kind of sappy, saccharine love story sounds familiar, well, you’d be right on the (outrageous) money. A Walk To Remember was the first novel-to-film adaptation from one Mr. Nicholas Sparks, kickstarting the slew of sappy, saccharine fairytale romances from that author. Dear John, The Longest Ride, The Last Song, The Lucky One, The Best Of Me, The Choice… Oh, and who could forget, just two years after A Walk To Remember made a modest (but no means unremarkable) box office splash in 2002: The Notebook.
Where would adolescent cinema be without these films, and the stars that they made of everyone from Ryan Gosling to Liam Hemsworth, Rachel McAdams to Britt Robertson and Teresa Palmer? Where would cinema be without a star-crossed lovers story from Sparks, every year like clockwork, to fill that winter tearjerker romance slot? The annals of Hollywood are littered with films that have tried to imitate it and failed (ahem, this month’s Me Before You). It’s not easy being completely, unimpeachable un-sleazy. And if A Walk To Remember has dated, with its discman-themed flirting and G-Shock watches, well, to that I say, the ‘00s are back in fashion.
So thank you, Nichols Sparks. Thank you for giving us unashamedly sappy, sweet romcoms, the kind of thing an 11-year-old girl thinks she needs to lie to her parents to go and see. Thank you for PG-13 love stories. Thank you for A Walk To Remember.