THE CHOICE. US, 2016. Starring Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling. Directed by Ross Katz. 111 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, sex scene and coarse language).
The easiest way to review The Choice is to note that it is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. For those who enjoys Sparks’ novels and the film adaptations, there is no need of review, The Choice will be on the list of must-see films. On the other hand, critics are very harsh on the film adaptations, dismissing them as predictable, sentimental, trite. But, so much entertainment could be described in that way – but does not necessarily stop many being entertained.
There have been 11 adaptations of Sparks’ novels in the last 16 years, one a year since 2012. The first was Message in a Bottle, with Kevin Costner and Paul Newman. The adaptation which has received more praise than the others is The Notebook. Lately, we have had The Longest Ride, with the Rodeo background, The Best of Me, Safe Haven.
Most of Sparks’ stories are set along the North Carolina coast and this is the case with The Choice. Sparkes relishes the beauty of the scenery and the film makers have gone along with it this time, making The Choice a rather pretty picture, the water, the inlets, and at sunset, the golden light shimmering on the water.
As the film opens, Travis (Benjamin Walker) is confiding to the audience that choices and decision-making are important, and that he has a very important decision to make, arriving at the hospital with a bunch of flowers, talking to the doctor and… We go into flashback.
Travis is something of a tough type, with a rather sardonic sense of humour, living by himself in a comfortable house on the water, hosting parties, and listening to loud music – which does not ingratiate himself with his new neighbour, medical student, Gabby (Australia’s Teresa Palmer). And she blames his dog for impregnating her dog – and dogs will feature in the film as well as some puppies.
She goes to the vet and low and behold, Travis is in a veterinary partnership with his father (Tom Wilkinson). Travis will say that Gabby bothers him – but he likes being bothered by her. Initially, she is bothered in the expected way but, somehow or other we know that this is going to end in romance. Complication, Travis has an on-again off-again girlfriend and Gabby is about to be engaged to the local doctor.
Gabby comes from a very wealthy family and she decides to go back home, thinking that she must be engaged – although telling the truth to the dcotor.
The Choice is very much in favour of commitment, marriage and family. And the years go by.
It would not be a romance if there were not some suffering in the film – and, in a predictable way, it happens, causing Travis to think, to make decisions…
After the tears, joy and smiles, and that is a Nicholas Sparks’ story. Until the next one.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released February 4th 2015.