Review: “The Choice” is the Right Choice for Valentine’s Day Romance

Genre: Romance | Drama
Directed by: Ross Katz
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Maggie Grace, Tom Welling
Written by: Bryan Sipe (screenplay), Nicholas Sparks (novel)

Synopsis: Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life’s most defining events.

Sappy, cliche, Hallmark, boring, irritating are just some of the words people use to describe Nicholas Sparks movies. The ones with the expert opinion are throwing around quotes such as, “Make sure to have a barf bag,” “Unendurably dull-minded,” or “Anything in theaters right now would be better.” I say relax people, why such venom and hatred? Find some joy in your lives. “The Choice” is a much better than the early criticism of it.

You know what you get with Nicholas Sparks. A love affair, tragedy, and usually a happy ending. It’s what makes the books and movies fun. “The Choice” is the best one of them since “The Notebook”. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina (shoutout Dawson’s Creek), Gabby (Teresa Palmer) and Travis (Benjamin Walker) are newly acquainted neighbors. Gabby is a guarded medical student with a temper that’s ready to explode. Travis is that gasoline to Gabby’s fire. Their first meeting is a shouting contest (mainly lead by Gabby) over Gabby’s dog Molly getting pregnant. Poor Moby (Travis’ dog) is to blame. This early scene sets-up the love/hate relationship between the two that ultimately and predictably will lead to a romance.

Teresa Palmer is outspoken and a spitfire as Gabby

What separates this film from other Nicholas Sparks movies is that the obvious romance isn’t rushed. It builds, molds, and develops in a organically crafted way. Obstacles are thrown at both of the characters as their romance is blooming. Travis is a charming playboy who has an on-and-off girl companion in his life. Gabby is in a serious relationship. Trouble.

What works is that Gabby and Travis aren’t pegged as the love-at-first-sight couple, they are far from it. She actually despises Travis. A series of chance encounters lays the building blocks for that love to occur. Even though you know those two will be ending up with each other in some way, you aren’t always 100% sure how and when, it’s that sort of intrigue that keeps this story fresh. The set-up is the focal point of the movie and moves into the latter stages of the film. Some events are rushed, and not one, but two major “choices” present themselves.

Aside from the nice development and pacing of the plot, the dialogue is snappy and realistic. The performances, especially by Teresa Palmer, are as good as you can get in a Sparks movie. The witty, wise cracking dialogue filled with sarcasm is appealing and engages you in the characters. Gabby is a spitfire, she is vulnerable, but has a tough exterior. Palmer really shines in the film. She’s an actress whose been overlooked and ready to burst out on the mainstream. Transformers and “Warm Bodies” were supposed to be Palmer’s big breaks, they weren’t, but “The Choice” will and should be. Palmer might be one of the most stunning women in Hollywood, the piercing blue eyes light up the scenes, just as much as the frequent shots of the lake. As visually stunning as she is, her talent shines even brighter in the movie. Palmer is a huge star in the making.

Benjamin Walker is a bit miscast in the role, but does solid work. He exemplifies a good ol’ country boy. Suave, charming, and cool. While Palmer looks like someone in her early to mid 20’s, Walker looks about double her age. That brutal toupee looking haircut doesn’t help either. What was the thinking behind that? Did someone in production come up with a crazy idea of trying to make him look like he got a haircut in a barn from a small town butcher? The focus on looks has to be included, it’s a critical element to these movies. A reader of the Sparks novels has to visualize these characters as ridiculously good looking people in order to make the fantasy complete. In the movies this casting matters. Tom Welling in a un-Superman like performance plays Gabby’s boyfriend Dr. Ryan. Maggie Grace plays Travis’ supportive sister Steph. Both are good additions to this talented cast.

Walker doesn't look the part
Walker doesn’t look the part

You know what you’re getting with this kinda movie, and you get those elements of romance and despair, plus a lot more humor and humanity from the characters. The side stories in the film link up to the the main one centered around the Travis and Gabby. Pay attention to the two dogs in the film, Molly and Moby, they are the anchor to the budding romance between Gabby and Travis. Another endearing story involves Travis’ father, who is looking for new love also, while harboring his past one.

The visuals are bright and beautiful. From the bright daytime sun shining down on the crisp blue lake and glistening off all the nature greens surrounding, the sunset setting on the banks of the lake, to the moon lighting up the entire sky. The characters are placed in these picturesque settings, this nature filled mood and vibe enhances their romantic moments together.

Palmer in her best role yet
Palmer in her best role yet

What “The Choice” does best is make you feel and look within. The movie title has an added meaning, heavily tied into the turning point of the movie. Sure, there are flaws, especially ones related to medical information being presented. Giving these details away would spoil the ending, but anyone who has seen one of these movies has an idea. This isn’t a perfect movie, there are corny moments and semi-unrealistic chance encounters. That’s to be expected, and it adds to the fantasy element of the romance.

These movies aren’t about the everyday world we live in, but realistically we don’t want these movies to be that. There are two important messages to take away from the film. Make choices that make you happy, and not ones that you feel obligated to comply with. The other being to go with your gut instincts and never give up on love. Romantic, hopeful, playful, charming, emotional are appropriate words I’ll use to describe the movie. There is more than what meets the surface with “The Choice,”if you listen to outsiders and go with the negative portrayal then you are certain to label the film and set unrealistic expectations. The humor, the sarcastic and playful interaction between Palmer and Walker, and the moments the movie will make you feel and think about life and love is what makes “The Choice” the perfect choice for a Valentine’s Day date movie. Grace’s character utters the line, “If you sit still, it can pass you by forever,” truer words couldn’t have been said any better. Go see and enjoy this movie with someone special.

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour & 51 minutes

Release Date: February 5, 2016


Follow me on Twitter @JimRko


  • Acting - 7.5/10
  • Cinematography - 8/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 8/10
  • Setting/Theme - 8/10
  • Buyability - 8.5/10
  • Recyclability - 8/10
  • Lasting Impression - 8/10

About Jim Alexander

who has written 157 posts on The Movie Blog

When it boils down to it, Jim's passion is entertainment. Aside from being an avid sports fan, that follows all things NFL, NBA, and Soccer. He currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago. At the core of his interests...movies! Whether trying to catch the newest flick coming out this weekend, or the latest On Demand release, to heated debates with his friends and colleagues about the most recent "Box Office Blunder". The passion for movies lies deep within him. When he isn't writing, he immerses himself in his other interests; Acting and Radio Broadcasting. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimRko.