Because older people can fall in love too… The cynical will look at Nights In Rodanthe and see a film designed to appeal to a demographic with high disposable income. Actually, the not-so-cynical will look at Nights In Rodanthe and see a film designed to appeal to a demographic with a high disposable income. It’s glossy, well made, touching and so old fashioned you almost expect Richard Gere to leave one foot on the floor. And then just when you’re writing it off as a predictable romantic saga — and a film for romantic SAGA members — there’s around one minute of pure acting that will blow your socks / support stockings off (delete as applicable).
Adrienne Willis (Lane) is a semi-single mother of two. She’s not divorced but her husband’s found another woman and she’s struggling with a teenage daughter who needs some serious weeks on the naughty step. With the kids with their dad one weekend, she’s arranged to house sit for her friend Jean (Davis).
Jean owns a beachside inn in Rodanthe, a tiny town on the windswept coast of North Carolina. All Adrienne has to do is open up for the single guest booked in — a Dr Paul Flanner (Gere) — make a couple of breakfasts and dinners and chill out. And possibly batten down the hatches if the predicted hurricane strikes. But that’s not important right now.
Before Adrienne leaves, she’s presented with a dilemma. Hubby wants to return. Part of her wants him back, the kids certainly do, but is it really the right thing? It’s a conundrum that makes her perfect company for Flanner, a man estranged from his son and in Rodanthe to face up to his own crisis of conscience. Now, you’ll never guess what happens next… Yes indeed. So obvious is the story line it feels almost patronising to spell out that Adrienne and Paul fall in love. Which they do and in true, glossy, old-fashioned style.
Up to this point, things are trite but decent enough thanks to Lane and Gere having great chemistry. It’s after this point that the film both goes off the rails and delivers perhaps the best 60 seconds of acting seen this year.
When reviewing The Mummy 3, we speculated that the producer’s 10-year old had got hold of the script and added all the CGI bits. It’s possible that a similar thing happened here. While we don’t mind a bit of melodrama, there is a limit and Nights In Rodanthe charges over that line in shameless style. It’s not enough that there’s the mother/daughter relationship, the estranged husband quandary and the estranged son thing? Apparently not, because there’s also the unfeasible romance, the doctor / patient issue Paul’s in town to resolve and — I kid you not — medical issues in impoverished bits of South America. And floods. And… well, there’s more, but that would give too much away.
However, you can almost forgive the film’s excesses when it gives Lane a chance to breakdown so convincingly and in utterly heart-wrenching style. While every other mood in the film has been dictated by syrupy music and straight-for-the-heartstrings dialogue, Wolfe leaves this scene as silent, raw emotion. The result is astonishing - but also makes you think what could have been. As it stands, Nights… is a decently made, chocolate box tearjerker that does what it set out to do. But with a little less melodrama and a bit more emotion, it could have been so much more.