‘The Choice’: Mushy and mediocre (IANS Movie Review, Rating: **)

Film: “The Choice”; Director: Ross Katz; Cast: Ben Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Welling, Brett Rice and Tom Wilkinson; Rating: **

A tearjerker based on Nicholas Sparks’s book of the same name, “The Choice” is an escapist romance tale about two neighbours who fall in love.

At the very onset of the narration, we are informed that ‘Secret of Life’ – the whole damn thing – is about decisions and choices one has to make. This makes you aware that it is the characters’ choices that drives the plot of the film and it is their decision that shapes their relationship and lives.

Set in Wilmington, a small town in North Carolina, US, Travis Parker, a country boy, is a charming veterinarian living a comfortable lifestyle in a beautiful house right by the waterfront of one of the inlets near the beach. He is a loner, yet a ladies man.

Gabby Holland, on the other hand, is a rich, vivacious and feisty final-year medical student who has recently moved into the house next to Travis’s and is already engaged to Ryan McCarthy, the most eligible doctor in town.

How Gabby and Travis meet and let their romance blossom till they encounter a few serious obstacles in the course of their relationship, forms the crux of the tale.

Australian actress Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker make an excellent pair as Gabby and Travis. They are natural onscreen and their chemistry is palpable. especially when he says, “You are bothering me”, and she replies, “You are so smug”. These lines are delivered many times and every time they deliver it, they do it with much conviction.

Of the two, Benjamin scales notches higher on the emotional graph because the story is narrated from his point of view.

They are aptly supported by the rest of the cast which includes Maggie Grace as Travis’s caring sister Stephanie Parker, Tom Welling as Ryan McCarthy, Tom Wilkinson as Travis’s veterinary widowed father Dr.Shep.

The screenplay written by Bryan Sipe faithfully sticks to his source material with all earnestness. The pace is slow and the script meanders revealing romantic moments shared by both of them.

With written notes stacked to the dog collar, puppies, flowers and water rides against a scenic background, the film contains all the predictable tropes of the romance genre. While the film starts off on a frothy note, it settles to become a sentimental story, hurtling towards a cheap mushy spectacle.

Ross Katz’s direction is careless and uncaring. This is jarringly evident during the initial picnic scene when Gabby is seen with and without the white t-shirt in different shots of the same scene. Also a couple of jerky edits add to the list of events that mar your viewing experience.

Alar Kivilo’s lens captures the gorgeous landscapes with the golden hued sunsets, twinkling stars and glowing moon, rippling waters and lush grasses swaying in the wind with much flourish. But it is his unfocussed frames in the initial stages of the narration that are bothersome.

While the narration winds up on a sweet note with the couple whispering, “Your heart beats for mine” into each other’s ears, this idealistic romantic film fails to warm your sentiments.

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