Dear John, the drama-filled romance movie, John Tyree, a young soldier, meets Savannah Curtis, a college student on spring break, and they quickly fall in love. The movie directed by Lasse Hallstrom, adapted from Nicolas Sparks’ novel of the same name. Dear John showcased many aspects of communications in its most simple forms. Including the ten stages of the Knapp Stage Model, which could actually be witnessed throughout the Dear John the movie and the book, as the two main characters, John and Savannah, developed their relationship and as they tried to maintain their relationship. In the Knapp’s Stage Model, Mark Knapp describes the progression and development of relationships as a series of ten stages in two phases: the ‘coming together’, initiation is followed by the experimenting , intensifying, integrating and bonding stages. In the ‘coming apart’, the differentiating, circumscribing, stagnating, avoiding and terminating stage occurs. These stages are illustrated in the film Dear John. In the opening scene of Dear John, it was John’s and Savannah’s first time meeting, it was attraction at first sight.
During the night scene at the beach, they conversed. I would still think it’s the initiating stage because the content of their conversation. They didn’t ask questions with the intention of knowing more of each other apart from that one question, ‘’When are you going back? ” which was rather casual. That will sum up the initiating stage. In the later scene, John asked for a date and Savannah agreed. That means they have both passed each other’s test so there is an experimenting stage. By the way, John actually stayed at the Barbeque till the night when he mentioned that his dad cooked dinner. Why else would one blow off his dad if it isn’t because he likes the girl? Therefore, that supports my stand that they were already attracted to each other at the beach. At the dinner scene, they were started talking about something more personal. They were making small talk. The topic of family and John’s past came in. These topics usually wouldn’t be brought up at the initiating stage because they’re too personal. I would also like to link to another concept with this scene which is relational needs of openness.
If you notice, John wasn’t too comfortable with the talk to the point he asked “why do you want to know so much?” He would fall under the kind that closed off to other people. His answers were all one-liners, straight to the point with no further explanations. In the next scene, when they were walking towards the wooden house, that was another example of getting to know each other through talking. This ends off the experimenting stage. They have a fight, but reconcile before John’s leave from the army is over. When john returns to the army, he and Savannah begin long distance relationship through handwritten letters. The first letter was very clear that Savannah loves John. Previously, John actually gave Savannah a note in which the content wasn’t disclosed to the audience till the very end of the movie. The note said “I love you” which was why Savannah wrote him, that letter was a reply. Those were disclosures of feelings to each other. In that scene, John said “I made you a promise, didn’t I?” and later, they both agreed to write to each other all the time. She was supposed to wait for him for a year while he was away in Germany.
That was a sense of commitment to the relationship. This will summarize the intensifying stage. The fourth stage is integrating. This point is rather straightforward. It’s the turning point whereby the couple announces to their friends and family that they are a couple. In this case, you could see John being introduced to Savannah’s parents. Couples do not always follow strictly to the model. Steps could be jumped or revisited again. Sadly, there was no fifth stage (Bonding – marriage, engagement) for this pair in the movie. Conflicts arise because of different perceptions; it is also illustrated in this movie. There was a fighting scene at the patio and it was because John wanted to extend his tour with the army but Savannah did not want to wait for another two years. So after a long time apart, John and Savannah find themselves drifting apart and resigned to being apart from John, and Savannah sends a ‘Dear John’ letter telling him that she has become engaged to someone else.
John finally got a letter from Savannah which she initiated a break up. Break ups are due to many possible factors, in their case, changes, poor communication and unrealistic expectations. Changes referred to the huge changes they went through from the two weeks of summer break together to being thousand miles apart. Next, poor communication, I think this might be the least contributing factor. Even though, letters took weeks or months to reach each other, their letters were filled with words. They told each other everything about their lives so it wasn’t a case of drifting apart. Lastly, it is the factor I think contributed the most probably which is an unrealistic expectation. Long distance relationships are hard enough and a person can only take it for so long. The first year was fine but when John added two more years onto the pile, it was too hard for Savannah to take. Although John’s and Savannah’s falling out they eventually came together as friends, especially when John’s father is on his death bed, John returns home and connects with his father, something he was not able to do before.
John then sells his father’s coin collection to fund Savannah’s husband’s cancer treatment. In the last scene of the film, John sees Savannah on the street and they embrace. The movie may not showcase as much details; however it does show the importance of communication in a relationship. For example, Savannah chooses to write a letter to John to break the news of her engagement, instead of calling him, it shows that it is already a sign od avoiding the issue directly. A handwritten letter is a linear form of communication, as John is not given a chance to reply immediately. If you were in John’s position, and you received a similar letter about your partner’s engagement, would you go back home to fight for what you want, or would you be ‘John’, and just bury yourself with work? Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the Knapp’s model and see how it fits into every relationship!