The Best of Me (12A/PG-13, 118 mins)
Director: Michael Hoffman
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Much like you can count on Woody Allen to deliver a film a year, we’re now pretty much guaranteed an annual effort from the pen of cheese-monger extraordinaire Nicholas Sparks. His latest features James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan as former high school sweethearts who return to their small town home when an old friend dies. The conflict comes from whatever drove them apart 20 years earlier, which we gradually find out in flashback – she with college plans and he a physics-loving nice guy from a family of hillbillies! The formula is all in place, with golden sunsets, a bit of danger and not a shred of the unpredictable, but the actors are watchable and the story engages in a silly, soapy way that never approaches reality. It turns particularly daft in an endless final third that feels like a whole other film has been tacked on, but it’s not the worst of Sparks, so take from that what you will.