“Nights in Rodanthe” is about broken hearts and how resilient they can be.
It’s a chick flick for grownup chicks ... women who can watch a movie with their hearts.
The crowd at the first showing on Friday afternoon at Sawmill Theatres was mostly women. And most came out into the afternoon sunlight praising the film, calling it “wonderful” among other things.
Starring Diane Lane as Adrienne and Richard Gere as Paul, the movie is set in a extraordinary bed and breakfast right on the beach of a Carolina island.
Adrienne is taking care of the place for its owner, a longtime friend. Paul is the only guest, paying double in off-season.
Adrienne is separated from her philandering husband and struggling to keep it together for her angry and rebellious teen daughter and fragile young son. At the same time, she is dealing with the recent death of her much-loved father. While their father takes the children to Orlando, she is getting away from her life for a little bit.
Paul is a surgeon coming to the small island town to meet with the widower of a woman who died on his operating table and making plans to escape from his life.
When her husband — played by Christopher Meloni of “Law and Order SVU” — comes to pick up the children, he tells Adrienne he wants to come back, he still loves her; he wants her to come to Orlando with him and the children, so they can talk.
She refuses. She has made a promise to her friend and she is going to keep it. She tells him they will talk later.
She shares the news with her friend, Jean, who owns the B&B, and the reaction is not encouraging.
Jean leaves and Adrienne settles in. Paul arrives along with warnings about a coming hurricane.
Paul is cold and distant, not especially impressed with the charms of the B&B and Adrienne’s attempts at being a good hostess.
As the hurricane flirts with the island, Paul begins to thaw and he and Adrienne begin to warm to each other, sharing their troubles over food and wine and stronger stuff.
Paul journeys into town to see the widower, but is kept from the meeting by the man’s angry and grieving son.
The widower — Scott Glenn — is determined to see Paul, so he has his son bring him out to the B&B. Paul makes no excuses, but he makes no apologies either. When Glenn’s character leaves, Paul is confronted by an angry Adrienne, who chastises him for his lack of compassion and failure to attempt to connect with the widower, telling him he is part of the worst thing that will ever happen in that man’s (Glenn’s) life.
The fury of the hurricane hits and all the family and professional dramas recede as Adrienne and Paul fight to secure the B&B before the storm. The two ride out the storm in each others arms.
The next morning, Paul wakes to sunlight streaming through the shutters, but Adrienne is no where to be found inside. She is wandering the beach, surveying the destruction — which is more of a mess than actual devastation. Devastation is Adrienne’s to own. Her frail young son had to be rushed to a hospital in the night and she wasn’t there for him, not even by telephone. She considers it a personal failure — never mind there was a hurricane happening all around her.
Paul calms her and praises her and tells her any man who would leave her is a fool.
He has an apparent epiphany and rushes out to go see Glenn’s character, accompanied by Adrienne — oddly, his expensive sports car suffered absolutely no damage (not even water droplets) from the hurricane. Paul goes to Glenn’s character and listens as Glenn — in probably the best, most heart-wrenching scene of the movie — talks about his dead wife. Then tearfully, Paul offers his apologies and condolences.
With next to no transition, suddenly everyone is cleaning up and getting ready for a post-hurricane party. It was jarring, and probably better handled in the Nicholas Sparks book on which the movie is based.
Good food, good music and dancing lead to the romantic climax of the movie. And after a single night of love, Paul leaves to join his son at a medical clinic in the wilds of Ecuador and Adrienne returns to her life as a single mother. There will be no reconciliation with her husband, in spite of her daughter’s wrath and further estrangement. Adrienne will wait for Paul’s return.
Their growing love is illustrated through an exchange of letters and Adrienne’s careful work to create a special box for memories from a piece of battered driftwood she found on the beach at Rodanthe after Paul’s departure.
Adrienne seems to be doomed to lose though. She does not have her happy ending with Paul. Yet she does have a happy ending and her heart proves resilient as it is able to embrace a newly matured and surprisingly responsible and caring daughter.