Australian Council on Children and the Media

Dear John

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Not suitable under 8, not recommended under 15 (Violence, Sexual activity, Themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dear John
  • a review of Dear John completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 4 March 2010.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to violence, scary scenes and sexual activity.
Children 8-14 Not recommended due to violence, themes of war and death and sexual activity
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Dear John
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Violence and sex scene
Length 109 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Dear John is a romantic drama loosely based on the novel by Nicolas Sparks.  It tells the love story of John, a young soldier (Channing Tatum), and Savannah, a conservative college student (Amanda Seyfried), who fall in love while on their two week spring break.  The two decide to continue their romance throughout a 12 month separation as John finishes his duty tour and Savannah returns to school.  They continue to get to know one another through intimate love letters that express their growing love for one another. 

Complications arise when, the week before John is due to complete his duty, the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York occurs.  John and his troop decide to reenlist for another two years, despite Savannah’s desperate pleas for this not to occur.  The couple attempt to keep their romance alive through their ongoing love letters, but an unseen twist creates trouble for the seemingly perfect romance.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

War, death of father, terminal illness; autism

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • There are multiple war scenes in different locations including Afghanistan, Africa and other undisclosed locations.  Scenes include soldiers and civilian locals carrying guns.
  • John is seen after being shot lying in the mud in his army uniform.  He talks about his last thoughts before his world goes black.
  • John and his troop are attacked by a group of locals with machine guns.  Both groups shoot at each other and one man is seen to be shot but saved by his badge.  Then John is shot in the back two times.  He is seen struggling to get away and then collapsing to the ground.  Blood is seen trickling down into the puddle beside him. 
  • John gets into a fight with some of his peers and is seen to punch three men down to the ground, one of them a friend of his.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the images of war and injury described above and news footage of the attack on the twin towers.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the images of war and injury described above and news footage of the attack on the twin towers.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the scenes described above and the themes of war and death.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the themes of war and death

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Lacoste
  • Chevrolet
  • VW

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • There are multiple flirting references between John and Savannah before they become a couple.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • John and Savannah share their first, passionate kiss in the rain.  Savannah straddles John while he sits on the ground.  Both are fully clothed.
  • There are many scenes where John and Savannah are seen kissing passionately. However all are while they are both fully clothed and often in public places such as airport, beach.  One scene shows the two of them kissing passionately in John’s bedroom whilst fully clothed. 
  • Savannah and John make love in one scene.  The scene shows both John and Savannah without shirts on but there is limited nudity depicted.
  • There is a scene where Savannah changes into a different shirt in the company of John and we see a brief side profile of Savannah without her shirt.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A party at Savannah’s beach house shows many of the party goers drinking alcohol.  John is seen drinking beer.  Savannah is not seen drinking.
  • During a dinner date John drinks beer with his dinner.  He makes reference to being kicked out of the restaurant a few years prior and being banned due to excess drinking and a violent incident.
  • There is a beach party where many of the people at the party are drinking and some appear drunk.  Savannah and John are not seen drinking at this party.
  • Savannah’s parents host a party at their home where many people drink wine and scotch.  John is seen drinking, Savannah is not drinking.
  • Savannah and John drink wine during dinner.

Coarse language

There are some insults and coarse language in this movie, including:

  • retarded
  • shit
  • Jesus!
  • freakin’
  • friggin’
  • son of a bitch
  • goddamn
  • ass
  • hell

In a nutshell

Dear John is a love story with a dramatic twist. 

The main message from this movie is that home is where the heart is.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include loyalty

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • war, including the terrorist attacks of 9/11
  • father and son relationships
  • autism and its effects on families and others

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