The Best of Me

Contrived, emotional button-pushing material

Writer Nicholas Sparks’ simulated movie products look like default Microsoft desktops with words by Hallmark. Romances are always predestined and eternal, and somebody usually gets sick. This latest retread has two former high-school sweethearts (Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden—good chemistry) meeting again 21 years later.

Notebook-type flashbacks fill us in on their teen romance. All the actors are above this emotional button-pushing material. The “twist” at the end is telegraphed in the first five minutes. Maudlin, contrived, sappy, and overlong—I counted three endings. You know. Sparks. Japanese title: Kakegae no Nai Hito. (116 min)