The Choice

Posted on February 4, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues
Profanity: Some mild language, someone gives the finger
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Serious car accident, character critically injured
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: February 5, 2016
Date Released to DVD: May 2, 2016 ASIN: B01D1JDCB0
Copyright 2016 Lionsgate
Copyright 2016 Lionsgate

Nicholas Sparks is one of the rare authors who has become a brand of his own, bigger than any of his movies. One reason is their predicability; fans know what to expect and they won’t be disappointed. The other reason is his genuine gift for creating characters audiences immediately like and want the best for.

In “The Choice,” with a script by “Demolition” screenwriter Bryan Sipe, we meet easy-going Travis (Benjamin Walker, last seen as the bad captain in “The Heart of the Sea”) as he meets his new neighbor, a peppery med student named Gabby (Teresa Palmer). In the midst of studying, already furious because of his loud music, she discovers that her dog is pregnant and she goes next door to let him know how angry she is. He is captivated by her because she is different from the other girls he has known, who came to him with little effort and left with little fuss. “You bother me,” he tells her, intrigued and a little surprised.

They both discover that their initial conclusions about one another may have been wrong, but the chemistry between them is increasing in intensity, even though Gabby has a serious boyfriend, a handsome doctor (Tom Welling). Gabby likes challenging Travis and he likes having to work to get her affection.

Their side-by-side homes both look out onto the water of North Carolina’s Inner Banks, and the images of sky, water, and coast are exquisite, somewhere between travel brochure and screen saver. Sparks has to be the MVP for the North Carolina tourism bureau. All of his stories are set in this spectacularly beautiful (if plagued by storms) region. And it is certainly easy to believe that the glow from this enchantingly glorious setting makes this a sublime place to fall in love. Director of Photography Alar Kivilo and the setting itself are as important to the film as the storyline, and more important than the dialogue. Some lines are arch or cheesy: “Look who’s sassypants!” “You’re a dork!” “There you go again, bothering me.” We never find Travis or Gabby as appealing as we are asked to believe they find each other.

Sparks seems to have taken in some complaints about the formulaic nature of his stories, or maybe he just wanted to try something different (but thankfully not as different as the awful “twist” in Safe Haven). We still have a body of water, a letter, and someone who has to be taken down a peg or two. The surprises are not as surprising to us as they are to the characters. But there is something gentle about the story that is undeniably captivating.

Parents should know that this film includes a serious auto accident and questions of when someone should be taken off life support, along with some strong language, mild crude references, social drinking.

Family discussion: What small choices in your life have made the biggest difference? Why does Travis like to be bothered?

If you like this, try: other Nicholas Sparks films like “Nights in Rodanthe” and “The Lucky One”

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