Novelist Sparks turns screenwriter with this film, which combines his usual themes (beaches, grieving teens, cancer) as a vehicle for Miley Cyrus to put her childhood career behind her. It's exactly what we expect, but it's also fairly watchable.
The summer after her high school graduation, rebellious Ronnie (Cyrus) and her precocious little brother Jonah (Coleman) are driven by their mum (Preston) from New York to the Georgia coast to stay with their estranged father (Kinnear). After sulking around in a huff, Ronnie starts to soften a bit, befriending shirtless volleyball hunk Will (Hemsworth). And as their romance grows, she starts warming up to her dad as well. But dark rumours, Will's snobby parents (Vernon and Searcy) and Ronnie's troubled friend Blaze (Chaikin) create various problems, as does the dreaded C-word.
At the centre of the plot is the question of whether Ronnie will return to playing the piano after seven years of moping. It's not terribly difficult to guess, especially since we learn that she was such a child prodigy that she's been accepted to Julliard without even auditioning. Not to mention the fact that her dad is writing one last song for her to play. As the weepy violins start surging on the soundtrack, you don't even need to have seen another Sparks" adaptation to know where this is heading.
Although the character probably wasn't much of a stretch, Cyrus gives a remarkably good performance as a young woman who isn't always very likeable. In fact, she's so stroppy that we wonder how Will puts up with her, so it's fortunate that Hemsworth delivers such a one-note performance: a nice guy who falls madly in love without really looking beneath the surface (beyond "you're not like all the other girls").
This isn't necessarily Hemsworth's fault as the script and direction are perfunctory at best, with a bland style that lacks much momentum, although pre-teen girls won't notice with all the dreamy kissing, plus a dress-up montage and even a wacky mud fight. For the rest of us, it helps that Kinnear gives another lovely, transparent performance that grounds the otherwise smiley-weepy tone in reality.
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Cast: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Bobby Coleman, Liam Hemsworth, Hallock Beals, Kelly Preston, Nick Lashaway, Carly Chaikin, Kate Vernon, Melissa Ordway, Nick Searcy
Rating: 3 out of 5*