Dear John Ending, Explained

‘Dear John’ is a 2010 romantic drama that follows the story of a soldier and a college student who fall in love but are kept apart by the serviceman’s repeated deployments. Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks and set around the tragic events of 9/11, the film pulls a lot of heartstrings, and slowly builds the central relationship, while also mixing in references to autism. Both John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) seem to be victims of their circumstances who have an innate need to be of service, but does that ultimately tear their relationship apart? Does John even survive after being shot in action? Let’s take a look at where the ending of ‘Dear John’ leaves our central characters. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Dear John Plot Synopsis

The film opens with John, having just been shot during active duty in a war zone, beginning to see his life flash before his eyes. He remembers how he went to the United States mint as a child and watched coins being minted, a memory that stuck with him so deeply that he thinks of himself as a coin, molded and stamped by the American Army to be a Special Forces Soldier who is now damaged after getting shot twice. He also mentions that he thinks of “You.”

The film then goes back many months, where John meets Savannah on the beach after retrieving her bag from the sea. The two begin to talk and are attracted to each other. John also befriends Savannah’s friend Tim, who has a young son who is on the autism spectrum. While giving John a ride home, Tim mentions how his wife often goes on vacation to take a break from the pressures of raising their son.

John and Savannah continue to meet and soon fall in love. They decide to stay in touch once John is deployed, as he plans on completing his service in 12 months and then settling down. However, on the day before Savannah has to leave to go back to college, she mentions that John’s father might be on the autism spectrum, which angers him and causes him to get into a fight in which Tim inadvertently gets injured.

Just before leaving, the two reconcile and then keep in touch by sharing letters. On a brief trip home in the aftermath of 9/11, John meets Savannah’s parents and is asked whether he plans to re-enlist in the Army. When he hints that he might, Savannah is saddened, and the two have an argument. Soon after John is redeployed, he receives a letter from her, saying that she must leave him and is engaged to another man.

Dear John Ending: Do John and Savannah End Up Together?

John continues to reenlist repeatedly, even against the advice of his Captain, who takes a posting back in the United States because he can no longer bear to stay away. On one of his missions, whilst saving a fellow soldier, John is shot twice. After recovering in a hospital in Germany, he once again enlists in the army but is eventually posted back in the United States, where his father soon passes away after suffering a stroke. He then looks up Savannah and finds that the horse therapy farm she always dreamed of opening failed after a year. It is also revealed that the man she ended up marrying was Tim, who was subsequently diagnosed with cancer and had precious little time to live.

John sells his father’s prized coin and is soon posted in a war zone once again. In a letter he receives from Savannah, it is revealed that he anonymously donated the money he got from selling the collection towards Tim’s treatment, which gave Savannah’s husband a few more months to live. The film ends with John back in the US, where he chances upon Savannah in a coffee shop. The two wordlessly hug, and the story closes.

So, for all intents and purposes, it seems like the winding paths of both John and Savannah’s lives have eventually led them to each other, and the two most likely end up together. However, the film also stresses the theme of how even the most ideal situations, like when John and Savannah first met, can end up taking an unexpected turn. Therefore, even though there is a high chance that John and Savannah finally have the chance to be together, things might not be so simple. For one, since we don’t know how much time has passed since Savannah’s husband Tim’s death, we don’t know for sure whether she is still single. The same is the case with John, who could’ve moved on after saying a definitive goodbye to Savannah after their last conversation.

Irrespective of whether they end up together or not, the film confirms for us that the two share a deep and lasting relationship that has largely been built on the letters they shared. Savannah says that she knows one thing for sure— that they will meet soon, which seems to imply that she will always consider John to be a part of her life, even if they are no longer romantically involved. And considering the film also stresses how time eventually runs out for every relationship, the fact that the two share a deep connection is perhaps more important than the relationship that they might or might not have.

Does John Die?

John receives two bullets in his shoulder and sees his life flash before his eyes in the film’s opening scene. He also thinks about Savannah just before passing out. However, we see him recovering in a hospital in Germany later in the film, telling us that he does, in fact, survive. Despite his repeated postings in war zones after getting shot, the film closes with John and Savannah hugging, telling us definitively that the Special Forces soldier is alive.

Why Does John Sell His Father’s Coin Collection?

Considering his father spent a significant portion of his life collecting exceptionally rare coins, the fact that John sells the entire collection (except for the first “Mule” he found) is an emotional but confusing move. Even the man he sells the collection to seems mystified. However, the whole story is subtly revealed after that. The anonymous donation that Tim receives to get his experimental cancer treatment is actually from John. In a heartwrenching and selfless move, John sells his father’s prized coin collection to prolong the life of the man who married the woman John loves. Considering everything, this is a particularly big-hearted gesture.

Also, the fact that he cares about the coin collection is brought out when John insists to the buyer that the “Mule” collection, which actually started John and his father’s coin collection hobby, must never be broken up and should always stay entirely with one person. He also keeps the first “Mule” he ever found, which we see him tossing while on duty in an active war zone.

What Happens to Tim?

Tim is an old friend of Savannah and her family who has a son on the autism spectrum. On multiple occasions, Tim is seen without his wife, who he says is on vacation. However, John soon realizes that his wife has left Tim to raise their special needs child all alone. Near the end of the film, when John finally asks Savannah why she left him, she reveals that Tim and his son Alan needed her help, and she decided to marry Tim mainly to help raise Alan. Tim also later confirms the same when he tells John that Savannah doesn’t love him (Tim) the way she loves John.

Sometime after his marriage to Savannah, Tim is diagnosed with terminal cancer. The experimental treatment that John’s donation allows him to afford grants him a few additional months of life, but eventually, Tim dies. Before his death, he says that he is thankful his son Alan will now have someone (Savannah) to look after him.

Read More: Is Dear John a True Story?