Film Review: The Choice

by Ali Robinson

Rated PG. Starring Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Tom Welling. Directed by Ross Katz.

Has a dog ever been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award?

Seriously, the dogs in The Choice were my favourite characters.

The Choice, the latest Nicholas Sparks book to grace our screens, centres on veterinarian/dog owner/lonely bachelor Travis Parker (Walker) and medical student/dog owner/girlfriend-of-Clark-Kent Gabby Holland (Palmer). And in typical Sparks style, when boy meets girl it’s a perfect storm of flirting, fighting, and fate.

The two meet when an angry Gabby accuses neighbour Travis of allowing his dog to get her dog Molly pregnant. I’m not sure if it originates in the book or the movie, but this is the first of many instances where Gabby is way, way over-reactive. She seems set on finding Travis annoying in every way possible, even when he hasn’t done anything worthy of her wrath. But Travis’ feathers are ruffled in a good way by Gabby, and as he says, she “bothers” him*. Their relationship grows with the birth of Molly’s puppies** and it’s a romance reminiscent to that of Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie’s (Rachel McAdams) in The Notebook. But there is one problem. A big, seriously-girl-what-is-going-on-in-your-supposedly-smart-medical-student-brain problem: Gabby is dating Ryan McCarthy (Tom Wells, aka Clark Kent from TV series Smallville), local doctor and all-round likeable guy. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with Gabby and Ryan’s relationship. They’re talking marriage, they’re happy, playing golf, etc, etc. It makes no sense that Gabby would want anything with Travis, and to be honest, it really annoyed me***. Hence, the dogs were my favourite characters.

Travis says at the start of the film that life is made up of lots of little choices. Sure, we make big life-changing decisions from time to time, but mostly we are faced with small, seemingly inconsequential day-to-day choices. For a movie titled The Choice, I was expecting an over-the-top focus on the consequences of a decision (a la Sliding Doors), but rather the story is more of a typical romance, and viewers are left to ponder what could have been if different choices were made along the way. Travis and Gabby make lots of little choices in the course of their relationship, and Travis is forced to make one big one towards the end of the film. And despite The Choice not being nearly as good as The Notebook, if you wept your eyes out in the latter, you might expect to find your eyes just a little damp in this movie****.

Despite being called The Choice, I liked that the movie didn’t claim that one (or two) choices changed the whole course of the characters’ lives (as Sliding Doors did). Rather, the big choices were significant, but by no means the only important decisions. Living as a Christian is like this – it’s not just one decision to commit ourselves to Christ, but countless little decisions every day to keep living for Him. In his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson writes, “God’s great love and purposes for us are all worked out in messes in our kitchens and backyards, in storms and sins, blue skies, the daily work and dreams of our common lives.” God works in the minutia of our daily lives. This movie reminded me that the small choices do matter*****.

At every turn we’re provided with an opportunity to decide whether to live for ourselves or whether to honour God. And even though we stuff up and make bad choices, Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:6 that “…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” If you’re keen to see this movie, it could be a good launchpad to chatting with your Christian mates about how you’re going at honouring God in all the little decisions of day-to-day life.

The Verdict: The Choice wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t fantastic. For a romantic movie featuring dogs, you might just be better off re-watching Marley and Me. 2.5/5

*Travis’ Southern accent reminded me of Sawyer from Lost, who had an even better accent and more sass. I wished Travis was more like Sawyer in this movie.

** Seriously, the puppies are so gorgeous. Travis even puts them in a basket. Cuteness overload.

*** Gabby also annoyed me because despite calling herself a Christian, she had no problem with cheating on her boyfriend, and apparently doesn’t go to church. But I won’t harp on about this too much.

**** Don’t judge me.

***** Paul Tripp wrote a great article on this a few years ago, and it’s a good one to read especially at the start of this new year. Access it here.

The Choice is released today in cinemas everywhere.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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