It is about the love that she always wanted, the love he always had, then the love they both deserve.
I loved the novel but friends didn’t like the movie adaptation very much. I do think they should have read the novel first because the context of the story is pretty much threshed out in written form. The film presented the context as episodes of their friendship spanning twenty years, interactions and convergent points in their separate lives. However, there are two important factors that the film missed out on to give more depth to its characters:
1) I do think the absence of their exchange of letters (that made up the first few chapters of the book) and how it switches from Emma and Dexter’s perspectives of each other’s letters were critical in establishing their personalities. It was fun reading them because they embodied the characteristics of the respective writers. The film just mentioned it in passing, making it seem like there’s more space in between their meet-ups when there were correspondences that bridged the relationship over the years.
2) Another important element missing in the movie was the gravity of their career dreams. Sure, Anna Hathaway’s anguish over getting stuck in that Mexican resto was revealed, but her journey to become a writer was not there. Jim Sturgess’s career path to failure, on the other hand, was clear. I just felt there was more priority in showing that Dexter was a complete jerk fumbling through life while Emma’s other struggles were muted, and her emotional attachment to her love for him was the only one highlighted.
These were probably the reasons why my friends felt detached to them as individuals. As a couple and as protagonists though, the film had more success. The great chemistry and tension between Jim and Anne carried the story forward, and despite the holes in the film’s storytelling, I still shed a few tears over “I love you so much, but I don’t like you anymore.”
Things that I like about the movie: Tears for Fears “Sowing The Seeds Of Love” playing in the background during their 80’s scene (so apt). Anne Hathaway’s British accent is believable enough. Plus, you just have to look into her sad, big, brown eyes and feel the deep hurt as the friend-zoned woman. Jim Sturgess is perfect as the pretty boy lost in life, but his transformation as an older, mature Dexter could give your hearts a sympathetic ache.
I recommend that audiences read the book first before watching this. However, even knowing how it turns out and being aware of the tragedy at the end could not take away the pain of the twist that closes the story. It will make you surprised and sigh a bit in sadness, but as it ends, it is a celebration of friendship and love that changes you and treasured even after death.