He is a soldier on leave from the Green Berets visiting his awkward coin-collecting dad; she’s a student. They meet on a beach in South Carolina. Cue a two-week romance filmed something like a feminine hygiene advert: sunshiny and breezy, his bronzed beefcake chest, her lithe limbs. There’s some coy intimate relations and seriously articulate let’s-make-the-world-a-better place chats. She tells him she wants to set up a summer camp for kids with autism; he’s only got a year left to serve. They promise to write. It’s all looking peachy. At which point you expect one of them to pipe up: ‘Gee, aren’t we meant to be, like, elegantly doomed or something?’
Enter 9/11, rudely upsetting the course of true love. He re-enlists for another tour, she waits. War, death, illness, this film has its fair share of all three. Which, never mind anything so complicated as grief or post-traumatic stress, provide ample opportunity for great swells of goodness and beatific smiles; even the Dear John letter of the title is written in an act of heroic self-sacrifice. A sucker for a cheap sob, it left me cold.