Nights in Rodanthe
The last thing Adrienne Willis expects is her estranged husband's invitation to join him on vacation with their kids, Amanda and Danny. Still broken from her father's recent death and bitter over Jack's extramarital affair, Adrienne reels under the weight of his suggestion that they get back together. Her pain is too fresh—and as a single mom, she's too tired—to even think about reconciliation.
So Jack and the kids head off to Disney World, and she flees to Rodanthe, N.C. Her friend Jean owns an inn there, and a promise to be a stand-in innkeeper while Jean is away for the weekend is precisely the excuse Adrienne needs to get some much-needed rest and solitude.
Adrienne arrives in Rodanthe just ahead of the inn's only guest, Dr. Paul Flanner, and a looming hurricane. Paul, already divorced, is a successful surgeon with many reasons to be unsettled. For starters, he's visiting the Outer Banks to try to avert a wrongful death suit that's been filed against him. From there, he plans to head to Central America to patch things up with his son, Mark, whom he has neglected for too long.
As the storm descends, these two lost souls cling to each other for warmth—physical and emotional. The bond that quickly develops between them is enough to change the course of both of their futures.
During his stay at the inn, Paul confronts Robert Torrelson, the husband of a former patient who is now suing for the wrongful death of his wife. At first, Paul is heartless and defensive, but under Adrienne's influence, he begins to show some compassion. Along the way, Robert gives a beautiful description of his deep love for his wife, despite a physical deformity that she bore.
Nights in Rodanthe underscores—not just once, but several times—the importance of parents' devotion to their children, even when the adults are going through their own trials. Adrienne's softening influence on Paul is seen in his interactions with his son, who heads a clinic in rural Ecuador. Rather than taking control as he usually does, Paul makes an effort to quietly live and work alongside Mark and learn what's important to him. This brand-new humility makes a lasting impression on Mark, and their once-strained father-son relationship is restored.
Likewise, Adrienne is loyal to her kids even when they're not loyal to her. She remains actively engaged in their lives when they're with their father. She stubbornly loves her daughter, Amanda, despite the teen girl's declarations of hatred for her. And, in the midst of her failing marriage, she reassures her kids that she will never leave them.
In appealing to his wife for reconciliation, Jack at least seems sincere. He tells Adrienne that he loves her, admits the stupidity of his affair and promises to do anything necessary to win his family back.
Adrienne says that a certain natural phenomenon is not considered "a good omen." Paintings in Jean's studio at the inn are said to portray "spirit gods."
Paul and Adrienne dance, snuggle, kiss passionately and share an onscreen sexual encounter. Audiences see them slowly undressing each other, then view close-ups of their faces and shoulders as they engage in foreplay. Next, they're shown in bed in the morning light. He's covered to his waist and she to her armpits by the sheets. In this state, they carry on an extended conversation in which he sensually traces the curves of her body.
Jean is also shown in bed (clothed) with a man. Several verbal references are made to Jack's affair.
The hurricane violently batters the inn, breaking windows and tearing off shutters. Robert's son kicks Paul's car in anger.
Crude or Profane Language
This film contains one s-word and one muttered f-word. About a dozen milder profanities also crop up. God's name is taken in vain a handful of times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Adrienne and Paul drink wine with their meals at the inn. In one scene, they knock back a whole bottle of whiskey between the two of them as they exorcise their angst over their respective family situations.
Other Negative Elements
Though she softens with time, Amanda is extremely disrespectful to her mother, belittling her and saying, "I hate you." She's also rude to her little brother, telling him to shut up and calling him an idiot.
The idea that's supposed to come off as the film's empowering moral is actually quite antithetical to biblical values. Compelled by her deep emotional connection with Paul, Adrienne stops considering reconciliation with Jack before she really starts. She learns that she "needs" to do what makes her happy—even if that means divorcing the father of her children. Granted, Jack did cheat on her, but that's not really the issue here. Her own happiness and fulfillment are what drive this story. And she ends up getting away with making a lame excuse to her children for her actions. As if to prove she's right, the film shows Amanda resolving her anger issues only after her mother divorces her father.
Like The Notebook, Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember before it, Nights in Rodanthe is a Nicolas Sparks novel-turned-chick flick. (Judging by the crowd at the screening I attended, it's fortysomething women who are the prime audience this go-round.) It won't come as any surprise then, that its centerpiece is the deeply emotional, intensely romantic connection between the hero and heroine. Though Paul admits to being a total failure in his marriage, he does all the right things in his growing relationship with Adrienne—treats her tenderly, protects her, listens to her, compliments her and learns from her. He even writes lengthy letters as a way for them to get to know each other better while he's visiting his son in Ecuador.
I should say he does all the right things except respect her standing as a married woman by keeping his distance. Sex is a part of Paul and Adrienne's relationship almost from the start. The singular bedroom scene is shot in a way that downplays their bodies and highlights the emotional connection between them. While that may sound like a good thing, it's not necessarily.
The emphasis on the deep bonds shared by the lovers deflects viewers' attention away from that one important detail: She's still married to someone else. (In several shots, Adrienne's wedding ring is prominent while she's getting cozy with Paul.) As if conspiring to make sure we want the two to be together, filmmakers paint hubby Jack as the flattest of all possible characters. He's so uncompelling that we're given absolutely no reason to root for his reunion with his wife.
And the moral of the story is that all this is OK because it's what makes Adrienne happy. Being married to Jack doesn't make her happy. Being with Paul does. So she ends her marriage and asks her kids to trust that she's made the best decision possible. Swept up in the emotion of her affair, we're asked to agree with her.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Richard Gere as Dr. Paul Flanner; Diane Lane as Adrienne Willis; Christopher Meloni as Jack Willis; Mae Whitman as Amanda Willis; Charlie Tahan as Danny Willis; Viola Davis as Jean; Scott Glen as Robert Torrelson; James Franco as Mark Flanner
George C. Wolfe ( )