The Best Of Me (12A)**

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Nicholas Sparks’ hopelessly romantic fictions are catnip to Hollywood.

Just as fast as the bestselling American novelist can churn out another heart-tugging tale of love lost and found (and lost again), film-makers immortalise the yearning and heartache with as much gloss as they can muster.

James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan in The Best Of Me

James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan in The Best Of Me

Now, James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan stare dreamily into each other’s twinkling eyes for this swoonsome yarn about two childhood sweethearts gifted a second chance at happiness when they least expect it.

Sparks has been writing to a predictable, winning formula for years and director Michael Hoffman keeps to the same well-trodden path signposted with regret and guilt as he cuts between timeframes two decades apart.

At high school, Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato) fall head over heels in love.

Alas, it’s a forbidden romance because she is a good girl with wealthy parents (Jon Tenney, Caroline Goodall) and aspirations to attend college and he was born into a viper’s nest of criminals ruled by the abusive Tommy Cole (Sean Bridgers).

A tragic accident separates the teenage lovebirds and they embark on different paths.

Twenty years later, Dawson (now played by James Marsden) receives a telephone call from lawyer Morgan Dupree (Clarke Peters) to inform him that his good friend and surrogate father Tuck Hostetler (Gerald McRaney) has died.

Dawson ventures home to honour Tuck’s dying wish but the deceased has sneakily arranged for Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), who is now married, to help scatter the ashes.

The Best Of Me is gooey and emotionally manipulative, building to the inevitable moment when the central characters must decide whether to rekindle their romance.

Marsden and Monaghan are a good-looking pairing. So too are Bracey and Liberato’s younger incarnations although he looks too old to convincingly pass for 18.

Someone at the high school should check Dawson’s birth certificate.