The latest entry in the Nicholas Sparks romantic film genre The Choice is out this week just in time for Valentine’s day. And yeah, let’s face it: this is now a genre in and of itself–so maybe we can call it the NSCU (Nicholas Sparks Cinematic Universe). These are the movies you go to wanting heartfelt relationships and a good excuse for a good cry. You know there will be heart-wrenching twists and turns with cornball moments but that’s the charm of the NSCU. The Choice is no different and the most recent solid entry in Sparks films.
Teresa Palmer stars as Gabby, a medical student living in a small coastal town in the south near the hospital she works at with her boyfriend who is the head doctor’s son. Her life is perfectly set and organized. She lives in peace and quiet, she works on her career, she has the clean cut boyfriend (played by Tom Welling), the parents love her and she is probably going to be proposed to soon and be well off for the rest of her life. Everything goes as planned that is–until life happens.
Suddenly, Gabby’s dog ends up knocked up by her annoying neighbor’s dog (or so she thinks). A neighbor who plays loud music and parties with his friends and current flames on the water they live beside. Travis (Benjamin Walker) is the nuisance in the distance and when she finally confronts him sparks fly through their annoyance of one another. Gabby is convinced his dog impregnated her dog but it turns out it wasn’t because Travis is a responsible vet who got his dog fixed. Their confrontation leads to more of an awareness of one another’s life that they both start to fixate over.
The tension comes to a head when Gabby shows up at his doorstep in the middle of the night when her dog goes into labor and he helps deliver puppies. Yes, this movie will get you with the cuteness of puppies. And there was the hook, before the puppies came along, all the beats felt reminiscent to similar ones in most of the Sparks’ films. After the puppies though, the plot moves a long rather quick. Gabby makes Travis dinner to thank him and they begin to have an affair while her boyfriend is away. Yikes! Yeah, it’s a little of a downer in that sense but it shows how complex life choices are even if not right on the surface. Palmer and Walker had that built up intense chemistry even in the scenes where they argued, which makes for that Sparks standard of a couple.
Another Sparks standard that is downplayed but very important is how the female characters have their own arcs. It’s never the guys who pick, its always the women who live more complexly in these films than in most movies. Through Travis, Gabby begins to take agency on her life outside of the linear motions she was telling herself to take. She chose to take a chance and while Travis is wilder and they clash, it’s in that conflict that they help each other be more alive. In their life before, they were just going through the motions. When her boyfriend returns, Travis lets Gabby know that he loves her and encourages her to choose what makes her feel more fulfilled. She accepts the consequences of hurting her significant other and moves on to the life she truly wanted with Travis after he fights for her. Walker’s persistent streak in Travis felt more authentically real that aggressive against her will. Seeing the changes in the characters from start finish made them so endearing thanks to the good performances from Palmer and Walker. Tom Wilkinson as Travis’ dad was also pretty standout and he has great moments with both of the leads which helped you care about these characters especially when the final choice comes around in the end.
Overall, The Choice is a standard romantic film that offers the dramatic expectations of a Valentine’s film. It’s much more memorable than the last few Sparks film but might not hit the mass appeal of The Notebook. It’s really for the fans of these kinds of movies and delivers on being the best option for seeing something to unleash the feels to.
The Choice opens this weekend!