An Oral History Of the First Time Kate and Kara Saw A Walk to Remember

Image via Warner Brothers
Image via Warner Brothers

Today is the 15th anniversary of the teen romance classic, A Walk to Remember. If you’re anything like us, this film was a seminal part of your young life and had you openly weeping in your local movie theater. Please join us as we remember this great film and the profound impact it had on a young, impressionable Kara Brown and Kate Dries.

Kara: More than anything, I remember A Walk to Remember as the most singularly upsetting movie I’d ever seen. When it came out in DVD, my best friend and I watched it three times in one night. For the first two viewings, her younger sister sat there and basically laughed at how upset we were. By the third time, she had joined us in our sobbing.


Kate: I’m actually trying to remember the first time I saw this movie, because the second time is sticking more in my mind. BUT, it seems fitting now that it came out in January (a dead, cold month) because I remember the theater myself and my two best friends saw it in was basically empty. How! This was the movie of our time, featuring my forever fave Mandy Moore and my then-love Shane West.

The second time actually comes more clearly though. While at my all-girls summer camp later that year, we voted on it for a movie night, and I cried watching it.

Kara: I do remember seeing it in theaters and being completely blindsided by the “twist,” which is of course that Mandy Moore’s character Jamie Sullivan has cancer and is going to die in a hot minute. Clearly I hadn’t read the book and I was young and dumb and hadn’t been exposed to many emotionally manipulative movies before.

However, in later viewings, I remember being much more skeptical of Jamie’s illness largely because of the way it was portrayed in the movie. Her transition from fine to sick. Those big ass sweaters. I think there was also a line about how all the treatments had stopped working but then Landon’s dad found her a new doctor or something? I DON’T KNOW. And the best part is, it doesn’t matter much.


Kate: There was so much to fascinated about with A Walk to Remember, Jamie’s terrible bangs being first and foremost in my mind, though the bad sweaters certainly worked in tandem with those. I loved her big reveal as “sexy” in the school musical when she puts on that horrible blue silk dress, curls her bangs away and SINGS BABY. (A note here that I owned and loved this soundtrack, probably because there’s a good deal of Switchfoot on it.)

There’s many things about this movie that fit it perfectly in what we now know of as the plague of the Nicholas Sparks oeuvre, but at the time I was young and unaware of his scourge. So the fact that Jamie’s dad was a preacher and that Landon’s bad boy tendencies seem to stem from the fact that he is estranged from his father didn’t seem endlessly tired.


Kara: Oh man, the mousy girl revealing herself to be “sexy” is one of my favorite early 2000s teen film tropes. Speaking of sexy, remember when Landon’s friends bullied her by doing a truly horrific job photoshopping her face onto a hot bod?

The skin tones don’t even match up! How could you possibly be upset by that? Of course, it gave Landon the opportunity to reveal himself as a “good guy.” It probably wasn’t great for my emotional and sexual development to believe that some asshole teen boy might come around and be nice to you, but only really if you’re a chaste, Christian virgin and/or have cancer.


Kate: It’s hard to say now what I found so fascinating about it all (probably the romance), given how little I relate to the subject matter now, but that scene is, in hindsight, an incredible comedic gift, one that is hard to take seriously even given the degree to which teen bullying has gotten even more intense since 2002. Now it reads as she’s being shamed for not being sexual enough, which sucks, except I always felt like her dad was super overprotective and she probably wouldn’t have been so square if he hadn’t forced his ways on her. But maybe I’m remembering it all wrong because it’s been so long?

Kara: It sort of doesn’t even matter how well you remember the plot which is great. I love how Jamie was super into astronomy which is exactly the kind of hobby you expect a beautiful, sick, religious teen to have.


Landon helping her with her bucket list is a key part of the film that, upon later viewing, has almost too many comedic jewels to count. The “two places at once” sham. The fake tattoo. (By the way, I remember listening to the DVD extras where Shane West admitted he was drunk during that scene. I’m almost positive.) Something about them dancing?

And I can’t decide if Mandy Moore and Shane West pulled off some very good acting or not. I mean, they only had so much to work with and about 70% of the movie is them giving each other sad puppy eyes.


Though, the rest of the cast is, looking back, incredible. Daryl Hannah! Paz de la Huerta! For some reason I remember Landon’s dad being played by Billy Crudup but turns out that was wrong. Also, Adam Shankman directed this, which feels very right.

Kate: Wow I remember Billy Crudup too because he seems like the perfect bad dad, though why would he have been in this movie? Kara, do you want to speak about “the handshake,” referenced in this conversation between Moore and West, that went down between Landon and his best friend Eric?

Because I do. We should bring it back.

Kara: THE HANDSHAKE! I never want to talk about anything else. Landon and his best friend, one of only like three black people in an entire town in the south, had a very special bro handshake. My favorite part is how it ends with them putting joints (though I suppose they could be cigarettes) out on each other’s shoulders. Why? WHY? Do people do that? Is that cool? It must have been because Landon is a very cool bad boy with a very cool bad boy handshake. The tropes they used to make him seem like a rebel are HI-larious.


Kate: From the EW Interview:

We were trying to have it be as edgy as possible and at the very end of the handshake, it looked like we might have been smoking a joint and we put it out on each other or whatever the heck that is.


It worked! You looked edgy as fuck!

Also from that interview, which everyone should read, because it’s full of gems, on the scene at the beginning of the movie that launches the whole thing where Landon and his dumb friends are drinking and they try to prank some other kid who didn’t deserve their cool kid abuse and he gets super hurt (paralyzed?):

In that scene, we were all supposed to be drinking, but a movie called Save The Last Dance came out and did very well and there was no drinking or cursing in the film so they made an executive decision to drop that the day of shooting the scene.


“a movie called Save The Last Dance.” Shane. My friend. We are familiar.

Kara: The interview also recalls what has to be the best exchange in the whole movie where Jamie warns: “You have to promise not to fell in love with me.”


And Landon replies: “That’s not a problem.”

THAT IS SO RUDE. Granted, he doesn’t know she leukemia at the time but still. God that was funny. It’s amazing how A Walk to Remember has gone from the movie that made me cry the hardest to the movie that has me cackling at every scene. Not many films can pull that off!


Kate: You could argue that it holds up in how far it runs the emotional gamut. Or that it holds up in that I’m talking about a bad Nicholas Sparks movie in which the protagonist dies 15 years later, one I thought I knew by heart and now realize I desperately need to rewatch.

I’ll end with this synopsis I just found from the movie’s Wikipedia page summarizing the end of the movie, which is: “Landon visits the docks contemplating the belief that although Jamie is dead, that she is with him. It is then that he understands love is like the wind; you can’t see it, but you can feel it.”


I still feel A Walk to Remember with me.

Kara: Profound.

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OMG, my Walk To Remember story is excellent.

My boyfriend (a year ahead, away at college already) surprised me on Valentine’s Day and drove down with a plan to get me out of school for the second half of the day, Ferris Bueller-style. Except he was 1000% nerdier, and actually got a note from my parents to get me excused, instead. We drove around town for a while and then went to a matinee of A Walk to Remember.

Side note: a teacher I was nerdily close to had been setting me up with a woman in a local nursing home who didn’t have any family nearby to visit her (I don’t remember anymore how she knew this lady - it was some attenuated connection via a civic organization her husband was involved with, I think). She was a Holocaust survivor and my teacher thought this lady could impart some knowledge. She was also *Jewish* and had advanced leukemia, which meant that I needed to tell her the Good News about Jesus STAT. I’d been calling her for weeks to try to set up a meeting, but she was dying and, you know, not into the idea of giving her last moments over to a proselytizing teenage stranger. The day before Valentine’s Day, I heard that she had died and I felt like had failed at an evangelistic mission I’d been sent on and that she was in Hell, and it was my own personal fault. In later years I’ve come to see how monumentally exploitive and self-centered and fucked up that whole thing was, but at the time, I was deeply sad and it felt like genuine mourning.

When Mandy Moore reveals that she has leukemia, I was horrified and heartbroken and lost my shit. I cried for the rest of our date. My boyfriend had planned a fancy dinner, he brought his guitar and he played me a song that he wrote for me, and he told me he loved me for the first time. I cried about the dead lady I’d never met through the entire thing.