Nights in Rodanthe, directed by George C. Wolfe, meets all expectations of a film based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks who has provided other recent dramas such as A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle and The Notebook. Nights is a love story that begins with a journey to Rodanthe, a community in the outer banks of North Carolina remote enough to provide the perfect setting for two strangers to find the missing pieces in their lives.
Diane Lane plays the leading female role in Adrienne Willis, a woman whose life has recently been thrown into chaos by the return of her unfaithful husband and by the strain of her relationship with her teenage daughter. Willis escapes to Rodanthe hoping to find resolutions to her conflicts in the solitude of an inn where she spent time as a young girl. She is left to tend the inn which would have been without guests for the weekend had it not been for the last-minute request of a wealthy doctor to stay for just those few days.
Dr. Paul Flanner, played by Richard Gere travels to Rodanthe in an effort to rectify an ugly situation in his professional life before he leaves for South America to retrieve his estranged son. Flanner arrives as the only guest of the inn tended by Willis – a situation that neither Willis nor Flanner had planned. Additionally, as luck would have it, a hurricane is bearing down on Rodanthe on just the weekend that both Flanner and Willis need to find some peace in their personal lives.
Nights unfolds slowly, but not unexpectedly. The story is very much Nicholas Sparks which is both great if you love his work and also frustrating because the stories are familiar within themselves. Nights plays the way you would expect a Sparks story to play. There is not much surprise in any of the interactions, any of the characters or any of the resolutions.
The character gem of the movie is Robert Torrelson, played by Scott Glenn. Torrelson is the original reason for Dr. Flanner’s visit to Rodanthe. Glenn’s on-screen time is limited to a few intense moments that provide the only true deep emotions in the film. Glenn’s portrayal of a broken widower with a deep love for his deceased wife is the highlight of Nights’ performances.
The screenplay and character direction buoy the overall film, lifting it above the often cliché feeling of its plot points. The opening scenes are frenetic and deliberately hurried and the dialog supports that mood. Later, when Flanner and Willis first meet at the inn, the dialog transitions to a series of short staccato phrases that lend to the discomfort felt by both characters as they work through their initial meeting. In the final scenes, the dialog transitions to the flowing, natural cadence of a familiar, loving relationship.
In addition to a well-written dialog, the overall direction of Nights is very good. As a director, Wolfe is able to capture characters’ mood with cinematic styling that plays well. Scenes of the beaches and the surrounding community deliver a mood of isolation and serenity. The hurricane provides the real-world incarnation of bleak and overpowering conflicts churning in the characters. The calm after the storm portrays repentance and resolution. There are a few spots in Nights where the direction feels a bit pushy – a too-obvious confluence of scene, dialog and musical score – but for the most part, Nights is a very watchable movie.
For Nicholas Sparks fans and die-hard hopeless romantics, Nights delivers as a movie. Romantic fence-sitters and others with a limited interest in Sparks may find the film to be a bit formulaic and slow.
– Blake Schwendiman