Monday, 28 July 2014


Most of those who'd had serious intent to see this would have done so by now. I, without that slightest desire (because of my revulsion at depictions of teenage romance), had purposely avoided it. However, seeing as it was showing at a fag-end season release, at a one-off screening for Senior Citizens in my closest cinema (7 mins walk from my flat), coupled with the fact that not only had it received strong approval notices from a number of my blog-pals, but it has also received an astonishing, almost unheard-of, average rating on IMDb of 8.6, with gritted teeth I went.
So, was it really as bad as I'd feared? No, not really. It was much, much worse than that.

Ought to say at the outset that I haven't read the book - and now, on the strength of this, have no mind to do so.
It's not a good sign to look at my watch for the first time and find that only 20 minutes have elapsed - in a 2+ hours film! I felt being so smothered in cheesiness from the very start that I wanted to ask an usherette when they were going to dish out the crackers.
To have one character with terminal cancer would have been quite enough to cope with, but when there are not two but three of them with various 'incapacities', well the opportunities for heartstring-tugging was written all over - and boy, did the film gobble them all up with glee! And to milk it even more, at least seven times during the film (or was it eight? I'd lost count) we had another bugbear of mine - snatches of songs on the soundtrack. I always find this lazy and 'cheating'. Either have unobtrusive music, which is admittedly not easy  to do, or let the situation speak for itself in silence.
Of the two main characters Ansel Elgort was particularly irritating with his smug, faux-innocence (even if he really was supposed to be a virgin). Shailene Woodley was, at least, tolerable. And it was a small mercy that they were towards the latter end of teenage years. I should have abided it even less had they been still younger.
I didn't find their relationship had credible conviction - what critics always call 'lack of chemistry'. Her making regular moon-worshipping eyes at him when he wasn't looking was intensely annoying.

On the plus side there was Amsterdam, for me the most interesting part, but only because in the years before my last visit in 1991 I was there so often (every few weeks at one point) that I was regarding it almost as my second home. So it was good to see it again, and recognising nearly all of the locations, including the 'Anne Frank House' though I wasn't aware of the complete transformation of the now-touristy entrance. As for the grand, applause-accompanied osculatory climax to their visit, all it lacked was for one of them to have exclaimed "I'm a Belieber!"
I wasn't aware who was going to be playing the mysterious writer, but when he showed his face I wasn't all that shocked to see that it was Jesus Christ himself, undergoing and succumbing to his very last temptation, viz drink - leading up to, one assumes, a final burn-out (though only after one final re-appearance).
The toe-curling, obsequious waiter's turn at the couple's meal was bordering on being over-extended beyond forbearance.
Where the two of them sat by the canal for a bit of nooky-talk I was thinking that it looked very like the route I used to use regularly to zig-zag my intoxicated way back to the hotel at around 5 a.m. after a night of reckless drinking and debauch in the leather bars (and dark corners thereof). So, reminiscing on that gave me some relief from following the film itself.   
I shan't say anything at all about the final scenes. Do I need to?

So was there anything apart from Amsterdam that I liked about the film? Yes, there was Laura Dern, whom I haven't seen for ever such a long time, as the girl's mother. She's a good actress now - and it's especially reassuring to see that she can emote distress without contorting her face into gurning, which was once her trademark look, strange and unintentionally funny, which she couldn't help but put on. That feature seems to be part of the past now.

During the course of the film I toyed with the thought of which film I'd rather see again, this one or 'Love Story', which I haven't seen since it's release way back in 1970, another film to which I took an intense dislike - and Holy shit! You know what? I think it would have to be the latter. Even though one can guess the vague trajectory of that film after the Ryan O'Neal and Ali Macgraw characters first appear as strangers bickering at each other, at least her slide downhill health-wise isn't signalled until the film is quite advanced, unlike here where the warning bells are sounded within the very first seconds. And 'Love Story' is shorter by 20 minutes!

I made for the exit as soon as director Josh Boone's name came up on the faded-out screen. But on the way out someone on the aisle actually started clapping. Can you believe it? I shouted "Shush! It was an ordeal!" and made a hasty departure out of the building, on the way home hoping that those who had heard my remark had understood that I was describing my own experience rather than that of the characters on screen

With my regular proviso that this review is a very personal one, I'm completely aware that I'm way out on a limb from the vast majority of people who've seen this film and enjoyed it. Nevertheless, in terms of my own experience, I can't give it more than.......................2/10.


  1. The book had a lot of internal - and very witty - monologue and comments; I enjoyed the book over the movie. But I liked the movie too. I suppose because it was a joy to see young love.

    1. I remember the positive comments coming from Someone (and maybe you as well?) on this film - and, truth to tell, it was largely the former's opinion that persuaded me to give it a go. I don't 'blame' anyone for it. It was my own decision - and maybe, in the light of what you say, I should not entirely give up on at least trying the book sometime. (Anyway, once I start a book, even though I may immediately dislike it, I've just got to finish it.).
      Your final sentence above opens a can of worms for me, being fully aware that my own resistance to seeing the depiction of love, most especially 'YOUNG' love, puts up all my walls of resistance - and it can't be any coincidence that I feel that way as somebody who has never experienced that particular emotion (in the way others describe it) at any stage of my life. So maybe the searchlight ought to be directed back on self.

  2. that was a very reflective reply ; thank you for sharing it.

    1. Well I thought I ought to say it before anyone else said it for me, Dr Spo. It can't be mere coincidence that I find it difficult to see others in love (even when contrived on a screen) when it's a feeling never experienced by self - and is something I do greatly regret having missed.

  3. Ray,
    You really do write excellent movie reviews. I'm sorry I don't have more time to read them but I will try and catch up when I can. And on to another subject "Dark corners of a leather bar?" Been there, done that. Have to say my present "situation" is oh so much better but the irony is, he's never been to a gay bar in his life (except last year when we met in Philly when I took him to a leather and western bar that I used to frequent in the late 70's (The Bike Stop). God, it was STILL there but NOT the same. Only a thinned out collecty of motley, Past Their Expiration Date (me included) old dudes. Needless to say, my amour was not impressed. I tried to explain how different things were "back in the day" but I don't think he got it so I let it go.

    1. Ron, my mind just can't grasp that anyone gay of 'mature' years, still moreso for someone of VERY mature years, has never ever been to a gay bar? Is it against his religion or what? For someone never having been to a specifically leather bar I can perfectly understand, but....Simply.astonishing! If anyone was not there at the time and 'sampled' it I suppose it's difficult to convey the thrilling danger and excitement that drew you and me to them like a magnet. They were addictive - always thinking that THIS time something really magical would happen - which it rarely did, though sometimes it might. I dare say that the bars I used to frequent around Europe in the 1980s have now changed beyond recognition too, but they were such wonderful, heady days which I still love to reminisce about.

      With the school holidays still going, my cinema visits are likely to be less frequent for a few more weeks - plus, in these warm sunny days, I've got to consider whether I dare leave Blackso for long, with his hair-raising Summertime habit of curling up under parked cars to sleep, the little devil. If he doesn't suffer a calamity though his actions he's going to bring on a heart attack for me!