Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) is frazzled. Her cheating husband, Jack (Christopher Meloni), has left. Her angsty teenage daughter, Amanda (Mae Whitman), wishes she could. And now her soon-to-be ex wants a second chance to save their marriage. With this proposition on the table and the kids vacationing with Jack for the weekend, Adrienne heads to North Carolina's Outer Banks to look after her friend's inn—grateful for the chance to retreat and reconsider.

Her one guest for the weekend is Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), estranged from his wife and son—and a workaholic surgeon who recently lost a patient in a rare surgery glitch. He's in the area to meet with that patient's grieving husband, hoping to head off a lawsuit but really needing to offer both survivor and surgeon some healing closure.

As if driven by all the swirling emotions, a hurricane blows in, trapping Adrienne and Paul with their dilemmas—and with each other—in the rambling, gorgeous, almost mystical beach house. It's as if Nature itself is sending these two hurting souls straight into each other's arms for solace (read: impassioned sex).

Diane Lane as Adrienne

Diane Lane as Adrienne

Problem is, their romance appears quicker than the storm does. At least with the storm, we first get some rain and strong winds; we watch it develop. Adrienne and Paul go from cordial, almost frosty, to cozy lovers in the span of one home-cooked salmon dinner and a few scenes of battening down the hatches. And how romantic can hammering down some shutters really be?

So, when Adrienne shows Paul a wooden box she made years ago to keep treasures safe and he asks, "Who keeps you safe?," this lovely comment seems to come from left field. It's as if the scriptwriters mined the best lines from the Nicholas Sparks novel on which this film is based but then failed to put these gems in the settings they deserve. So these lines wind up feeling random, disjointed, and forced.

And so when the requisite tragedy strikes toward the end of the flick (oh c'mon, did I really need a spoiler alert for that?), we're not invested enough to really care. In fact, I found myself feeling a tad offended that the film's creators thought it took so little emotional manipulation to dissolve me into tears.

Richard Gere as Paul

Richard Gere as Paul

Lane and Gere do an admirable job with the thin plot they're given. Though at times Lane seems to attack her lines, adding unnecessary huffiness. And in a few scenes I really don't believe her as the mother of her two kids; their affection seems phony and forced.

Together, she and Gere come across more like seasoned lovers (no doubt a comfortableness forged during their time together in 1984's The Cotton Club and 2002's Unfaithful) than a new couple embarking on a "life-changing love." They have nice chemistry together, just not the chemistry the plot calls for.

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When not in full-on love story mode, the plot circles around the topic of forgiveness several times. We watch Adrienne wrestle with whether or not she should forgive her ex-husband. He cheated on her and was absent when her father died, but do his new professions of remorse and love earn him a second chance? Paul seeks to explain his actions to a patient's surviving family member and to Paul's own son, a fellow surgeon with whom Paul is estranged. But he learns the hard way that explanations don't bring healing.

Surprise, surprise—Paul and Adrienne connect

Surprise, surprise—Paul and Adrienne connect

The plot hints at a few other interesting themes—losing yourself in your life choices, reconsidering expectations, figuring out a midlife "second act"—but none of these are explored in earnest. Granted, part of that shortcoming is no doubt the challenge of shoehorning a full-length novel into an hour-and-a-half movie.

Besides Gere and Lane, the movie's main selling point (or detraction, based on your opinion about chick flicks) is the Sparks-penned story. He made millions cry at The Notebook, but garnered a more lukewarm response to Message in a Bottle and A Walk to Remember. For those paying attention, there seems to be a pretty regular Sparks formula: difficult circumstances, unlikely love, delirious joy, gut-wrenching tragedy, and redemptive moral. A formula isn't necessarily bad when it's executed well. Unfortunately, Nights in Rodanthe doesn't deliver. At best, consider a Blockbuster night with Rodanthe.

>Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What do Adrienne and Paul wind up in Rodanthe looking for? What do they find?
  2. Paul accuses Adrienne of becoming what she thinks she's supposed to be, of not fully inhabiting her life. Do you think this is a fair accusation? Could anyone accuse you of this?
  3. Why does Paul go to visit Robert Torrelson (the husband of the woman who died on his operating table)? What does Paul want from this visit? What does Robert want? What lessons are learned about forgivness?
  4. Do you think Adrienne should have taken her ex-husband back? What would you have done?
  5. What lessons do Adrienne and Paul teach each other?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Nights in Rodanthe is rated PG-13 for some sensuality—basically Gere and Lane having sex (extramarital sex). We see them unzipping and unbuttoning each other's clothes, but we don't see any nudity. Once the clothes are presumably off, we mainly get faces-only camera shots, so younger kids might not even realize this is a sex scene. The more difficult challenge would be to get younger kids—even some teens—to stay interested in this plot about middle-aged love. However, the movie could spark interesting conversations with older teems about forgiveness.

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What other Christian critics are saying:

Nights in Rodanthe
Our Rating
1½ Stars - Weak
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for some sensuality)
Directed By
George C. Wolfe
Run Time
1 hour 37 minutes
Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Christopher Meloni
Theatre Release
September 26, 2008 by Warner Brothers
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