Message in a Bottle (film)

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Message in a Bottle
Message in a bottle film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Mandoki
Produced by
Screenplay by Gerald Di Pego
Based on Message in a Bottle 
by Nicholas Sparks
Music by Gabriel Yared
Cinematography Caleb Deschanel
Edited by Steven Weisberg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • February 12, 1999 (1999-02-12)
Running time
131 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $80 million[2]
Box office $118.9 million[2]

Message in a Bottle is a 1999 American romantic drama film directed by Luis Mandoki and based on Nicholas Sparks' 1998 novel of the same name. It stars Kevin Costner, Robin Wright and Paul Newman, and was filmed in Maine, Chicago and Wilmington, North Carolina.


Theresa Osborne, a former reporter, works as a researcher for the Chicago Tribune. On a trip to Cape Cod, she finds a mysterious, intriguing love letter in a bottle in the sand, addressed from Garret to Catherine. She is fascinated by it and comes into possession of two more letters by the same person, eventually tracking down the man who wrote them, Garret Blake. He refurbished a boat called Happenstence with his wife before her death and he lives quietly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina near his father, Dodge.

Theresa and Garret become better acquainted, but she does not reveal her knowledge of the love letters. Along with the literal distance between them — they live hundreds of miles apart — there is another problem: Garret cannot quite forgive Catherine for dying and leaving him.

Theresa's career flourishes as the romantic tale of the "messages in a bottle" is told in print, without naming names. Garret makes a trip to Chicago to visit Theresa and her young son. Their new love grows, until one day Garret finds his letters in a drawer in Theresa's apartment. Garret angrily confronts Theresa and, after a night of explanations, he goes home by himself.

A year later, Dodge tracks down Theresa. He informs her that his son Garret has died at sea in a storm while attempting to rescue someone else. A bottle with a message inside was found on his boat. Theresa realizes that it was written the night before Garrett's last sailing. In it, he apologizes to Catherine and says that in Theresa he has found a new love, a love he must fight for.


Boats in the film include a 40 John Alden-design gaff-rigged ketch in the beginning and a smaller wooden sloop Garrett "launches" near the end; the large ketch is not a sail configuration often seen off the Carolina coast, which leans toward sloops.



The producers originally planned to film on Tangier Island, Virginia, but some members of the town council objected to the drinking, cursing and sex in the film and demanded script revisions in exchange for shooting permission, even though this turned out to be rated PG-13.

Warner Bros. then tried Martha's Vineyard near Chilmark, Massachusetts, but the Chilmark Conservation Commission turned down a request to build a temporary 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) house on stilts in the dunes near Chilmark Pond.[3]

Beach scenes were filmed at Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine.[4]

The fog-bound harbor near the end appears to be Rockland, Maine. None of the coastal scenes are the Outer Banks (the setting of the novel), which has neither rocks, bluffs, nor tall pines; nor does the Outer Banks have the roughly 40 foot tides indicated by the docks shown throughout the beginning of the film. Large tides in the Carolinas are 10 feet and that is extreme.


Irish music group Clannad wrote the song "What Will I Do" for the film. Singer Richard Marx also composed the song "One More Time", sung by Laura Pausini, which played during the credits.


Box office[edit]

Message in a Bottle opened in 2,538 venues on February 12, 1999 and earned $16,751,560 in its opening/Valentine Day weekend, ranking number one in the domestic box office.[5] The film grossed $52,880,016 domestically and $66,000,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $118,880,016.[2]

Critical response[edit]

The film received negative reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 32% rating, based on 38 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10.[6] Metacritic reports a 39 out of 100 rating, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[7]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, praising the lead actors, particularly Newman "steals every scene he's in", but criticized the contrived ending.[8] Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Reporter called it a "dreary, lachrymose and incredibly poky tear-jerker" but conceded it had a built in audience among those who put the book on the bestseller list.[9]


Costner's performance in this film as well as For Love of the Game earned him a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actor, where he lost to Adam Sandler for Big Daddy.[10]


  1. ^ "MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (12)". British Board of Film Classification. February 23, 1999. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Message in a Bottle (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Paul Newman and Kevin Costner". Lodi News-Sentinel. 13 March 1998. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Outer Banks Beach House from “Message in a Bottle”". 23 July 2012. Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 12-14, 1999". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. February 15, 1999. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Message in a Bottle (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Message in a Bottle reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved December 2, 2015. 
  8. ^ Roger Ebert (February 12, 1999). "Message In A Bottle". 
  9. ^ Todd McCarthy (February 7, 1999). "Review: ‘Message in a Bottle’". 
  10. ^

External links[edit]