I have nothing negative to say about A Walk to Remember. Its few "cons" are totally overpowered by the sheer wonder and sincerity of this remarkable film, perhaps one of the best ever emanating from Hollywood and Warner Brothers – a monumental feat given its small production budget. The subtle power of this film keeps one thinking about it continuously and wanting to see it multiple times. It's a wonderful story about growing up and how one special person can change you forever. It shows how deeply loving someone can transform you to gain the strength to forgive, to accept, to respect, and to accomplish that which you heretofore would never consider. This movie conveys what true love really is, how it can affect people in life and death, and how absolutely beautiful it can be for those lucky enough to experience its deepest level.
The movie is so caring and sincere, it subtly draws you into it. It shows a popular in-crowd teenage boy discovering there is much more to life than reckless, carefree, aimless behavior. When a stupid prank turns harmful, a perpetrator, Landon (one lead character played by Shane West) is "sentenced" to perform community service activities, and these bring him into close contact with Jamie, a non-cool, non-popular nerdy religious girl (the other lead character played by Mandy Moore), who performs the same activities -- by choice. Landon has heretofore always treated Jamie with ridicule and disdain. Though he's known her all his life, through their interaction he suddenly discovers her passion for life, with interests and a depth he never knew existed. He begins to find a new path for his own life, and the ensuing transformation is wonderfully portrayed.
Although the picture's main theme is about Landon and the transformation he undergoes, Jamie is clearly the "anchor" of this movie. She's exceptionally sweet, genuine, innocent, highly intelligent and passionate. She was so interested in astronomy, that she built her own telescope and would venture into their small town cemetery, in the middle of the night, to pursue her celestial passion. She did this, not to impress, but for its own sake. Her beliefs in herself are solid and she never changes. She wears no makeup and wears the same low-key, non-fashionable baggy clothes from the beginning, throughout and to the end of the picture. She actually likes who she is -- the way she is. Unlike Landon, her self-image is not based on what others think.
She has just enough attitude to not take any disingenuousness from anyone – and when being "toyed" with would often "fire" right back. When Dean (a friend of Landon's and leader of the in-crowd "pack") mockingly asked her why her "Higher Power" could not get her a new sweater (she always wore the same one), she responded, "He's too busy looking for your brain." When Landon humiliated her in front of his peers, she coolly walked away at the time, but when he later came to her for help she calmly slammed the door in his very surprised face. She's a strong figure that "sees through" the behavior and demeanor of her peers. Her role demonstrates how one individual of virtue, faith and an up-beat attitude can so positively influence those around her by simply living her life true to her own beliefs, and not succumbing to peer pressure forces, no matter how difficult.
Landon's role clearly demonstrates the power of forgiveness and how its redemptive qualities can bring about caring unselfish behavior. Landon's in-crowd peers, treating Jamie cruelly at every opportunity (and eventually ostracizing him when he defended her), were eventually forgiven by Landon, and when tragedy struck they were all there to offer their support for him (and ask for forgiveness, each in their own way). And in what may be the film's most touching scene (though there are many), Landon essentially forgives his estranged father for leaving his family for another woman, and thanks him for his considerable support in making it possible for Jamie to return home.
One leaves this movie with a number of messages. The movie teaches to always be open to new experiences and to never "judge a book by its cover." The strongest message, however, is that of being a better more passionate person yourself, and to cherish those around you and the time you have with them. You're left with a sense of true love being so deep and pure that just being with the one you love brings such wonderful joy to your life. You would do anything for that person, even putting your own happiness aside for the sake of theirs. Jamie was able to change an arrogant, self-absorbed teenager into a tender, loving person who was willing to do virtually anything for her – and did!
Don't be surprised if you end up falling in love with both Moore's and West's characters. The enduring innocence, sweetness, evolving chemistry and eventual deep love between the movie's leads is genuine, totally heartfelt and compelling – unequaled in any other movie. In the middle of this film are a series of the most incredibly romantic scenes you will ever see in an American firm. They easily flow from scene to beautiful scene, showing two intelligent, thoughtful and sincere people slowly falling for each other. From Casablanca to Love Story to Titanic, no other on-screen pair conveys such an honestly felt passion for each other.
Despite the considerable sadness surrounding their romance, the movie leaves the audience with optimism for life, love, faith and the ability for everyone to change, the possibility to become a better person -- at any age. I watch it repeatedly with both joy and melancholy. Perhaps Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert (renowned longtime Chicago-Sun Times film/TV critic) said it best when he concluded in his film review, "A Walk to Remember is a small treasure."
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