Just in time for Valentine's Day, the next in a long and softy-lit series of Nicholas Sparks movie adaptations is making its way to the screen. The Choice stars Benjamin Walker (best known as a New York stage actor) and Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies) as your standard Sparks couple: inoffensively attractive, small-town types whose love is plagued by circumstances beyond their control. Everything seems magical and easy for Travis Parker and Gabby Holland in the trailers for The Choice; if you've experienced just one Nicholas Sparks novel, you know that disaster must be just around the corner. The novel by the same name was published in 2007; now the movie joins Safe Haven, Dear John, The Last Song, and others in the club of the author's page-turning romances that have made the transition to theaters. Did the king of the beach read base the The Choice on a true story? Exercise caution: there are spoilers ahead!
Travis and Gabby are not modeled after a real couple. But The Choice has its roots in one of film's most heartbreaking recent love stories. On his personal website, Sparks writes that he wanted to recapture "a least a bit of the magic" of The Notebook in writing The Choice. Published in 1996, The Notebook was adapted by director Nick Cassavetes and screenwriter Jeremy Leven into a lush, (mostly) period film in 2004. Quickly, the story Noah Calhoun, Allie Hamilton, and their indestructible soulmate connection became one of the most frequently name-checked movies in the romantic drama canon, for better or for worse. It was the "chick flick" heard 'round the world, and I'll be forever grateful to The Notebook for making the sublime albeit finite real-life relationship between stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams possible. I expect I'll come to terms with their break-up in another 10 years.
The Notebook throws several wrenches into the happily ever after of Noah and Allie. After overcoming a class divide and disapproving parents, the committed couple deal with an entirely new hurdle in their old age: Allie's dementia. Sparks writes on his site that he "tried to parallel – not copy – those obstacles" in The Choice. Once the relatively minor "getting together" issue is dealt with (here, Gabby's boyfriend), Gabby is incapacitated by a serious accident. (That's that Notebook parallel Sparks is talking about, as if dementia and being in a coma aren't two conditions that don't come with a set of dramatically different emotional and ethical concerns.) The Choice that the title refers to is Travis's: should he have faith in Gabby's eventual recovery or allow her to be taken off of life support? In this featurette for the film, Sparks praises his leads and their relatable natures, no doubt hoping that audiences will fall in love with Palmer and Walker like they did with Gosling and McAdams.
The Choice isn't a true story about someone tasked with making a life-or-death decision for their partner, so I wouldn't go to the theater expecting an especially in-depth look at what goes into that choice, just an entertaining few hours. Enjoy the movie for its potential to provide a couple of laughs, a few tears, and a bittersweet ending, the same as the pop culture behemoth Sparks novel and the film adaptation that loosely inspired it.
Images: Lionsgate; Giphy