'A Walk to Remember' was the film that first introduced me to the brilliant works of Nicholas Sparks, plus also the talent of actress and singer/songwriter Mandy Moore. Mandy was very young (seventeen I believe) when she starred in this movie as Jamie Sullivan, and it has been interesting to see her progression in various fields since then to the present day. I stumbled upon this film on YouTube of all places, whilst randomly searching for videos one afternoon, and I was instantly fixed on the various clips that had been uploaded. Therefore, I decided to purchase the movie on DVD and watch the production straight through, to make up my own mind surrounding the attention it seemed to gather from fellow YouTubers. I knew the overall story, as I had read some reviews beforehand, and this is what initially drew me to the movie.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks, being based in the fictional town of Beaufort. The book is set in the 1940s/50s, whereas the film is set in more contemporary 1998. This was done, on the recommendation of Sparks himself, so that the movie could generate more interest with a younger crowd, being set in a more contemporary period. It is, of course, a love story, but also has a resonance of Christian values that aren't too forcibly placed onto the audience, whether religiously minded or not. The film focuses on a young lad, Landon Carter (played by the multi-talented Shane West), who is pretty much going nowhere fast and losing his sense of identity along the way, i.e. hanging around with the wrong crowd and getting in trouble with the law etc. A young girl, Jamie Sullivan (Moore), who is also the town minister's daughter, has known of Landon's reputation for years and befriends him in order to help him with rehearsals in the upcoming school recital, in which he was forced to take part following a teenage prank gone wrong. Suffice to say, a sweet and romantic love story ensues, as is typical of Sparks's productions, but it is engrained in sadness from the very beginning by the fact that Jamie has terminal leukaemia. The film deals with this revelation sensitively and the ensuing story is a sheer testament to Sparks' creative mind.
The character of Jamie was, in fact, based upon Sparks' own sister, who died of terminal cancer in similar circumstances. This fact also resonated with me in that this was the first film I had seen to deal with terminal illness since I was diagnosed with a bone-marrow debilitating disease known as Aplastic Anaemia, which has effects very similar to leukaemia. Over the years, it has helped me deal with the strains of living with this condition, which can sometimes be overbearing, to say the least. Unfortunately, the film didn't garner a plethora of positive reviews with certain movie critics upon its cinematic release, and the Christian community has made a bit of an uproar concerning some 'over-sexualised' scenes. This certainly should not deter anybody from seeing the movie, however, and I'm sure the experience will leave you feeling uplifted and grateful for life in general.
The film was initially released on VHS and DVD in 2002, and the DVD, distributed by Warner Brothers, is a fairly simple release with few heavy extras (undeniably because of the relatively poor box-office performance, they didn't want to invest heavily on the film distribution). The film itself is presented in wide-screen letter-box format on the DVD release, whilst the VHS is formatted for full-screen presentation. The DVD also has English and French language audio options, as well as providing subtitles for the English hard-of-hearing, and for those who wish to follow in French or Spanish. The two main DVD extras included are the two commentaries for the feature film. I found the commentary by Nicholas Sparks and screen-writer Karen Janszen particularly interesting, as there is a lot of discussion about the process of translating Sparks' original novel into a screen-play, and how certain elements of the book had to be tweaked in order to fit into the film's contemporary setting. The other commentary includes contributions from the two main cast members, Mandy Moore and Shane West, alongside movie director Adam Shankman. This is also very interesting, as there is a lot of talk about certain deleted scenes that never made the final cut due to the film board and overall timing constraints. It really is a shame that none of these deleted scenes were included on this DVD Release as extras, as I got the impression that they would have added more background and comedy into the production as a whole. Also included is the theatrical trailer for the film and film highlights of the main cast. Mandy Moore's music video for her single 'Cry' (included on her eponymous third album) is also included as a bonus feature on both formats, in which Shane West stars as Landon looking up to the sky to see Jamie in heaven (presumably!).
It would be a shame not to experience this film at least once in your life, and this is why I recommend you to see for yourself Sparks' sensitive production about life, love, forgiveness, and teenage angst. I would also recommend anyone interested in the film to seek out Sparks' novel of the same name, which is in some ways worlds apart from the movie, but serves as a nice accompaniment to the feature production. It is, additionally, worth seeking out the movie soundtrack, preferably in its re-release special extended edition, which includes music from Moore herself, Switchfoot, James Foreman, and many other noteworthy performers.