“The Notebook” is a beautifully shot love story. From the opening frames to the last, viewers experience a cinematic atmosphere as enveloping as the love of the film’s main characters.
The film, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, tells the story of Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) as they fall in love during the early 1940s, are separated by war, and bump into each other again after the war—when Allie has moved on and Noah has not.
Their story is tempered by flash-forwards to the present day, where an older man (James Garner) is reading Noah and Allie’s story—from a notebook—to an older woman (Gena Rowlands).
“The Notebook” is, in many ways, the classic tale of a rich city girl who falls for a poor country boy. Allie’s parents are high society, and Noah’s father (played perfectly by Sam Shepard) is down-to-earth.
Allie’s parents grow increasingly frustrated as their debutante daughter spends more and more time with this boy who works at the lumber yard. The cold, mean mother (Joan Allen) calls Noah “trouble” and, worse, “trash, trash, trash.”
As complicated as their love already is, Noah and Allie are further foiled by the outbreak of World War II, which finds Noah in the army and Allie back in more “acceptable” circles, where a wealthy Southerner (James Marsden) asks for her hand in marriage.
The love story thus becomes a love triangle, and the end of the movie plays like a mystery, with those who haven’t read the novel wondering who Allie ends up with.
The script is laden with dialogue and scenes that linger, but it works. The film, from director Nick Cassavetes, doesn’t crawl; it flows.
Garner, Rowlands, Gosling and McAdams all deliver fine performances, especially McAdams. Using everything from her period costumes to a confident persona, her Allie is fun to watch.
McAdams and Gosling also have good chemistry, both romantically and humorously. Together, they create a believable portrait of young love that is, yes, sometimes funny and always serious.
But the end of the movie belongs to Garner and Rowlands, who show that maybe the only thing sweeter than young love is old love.
In the end, “The Notebook” is not so much about whether love can do miracles as it is about this simple fact: Love itself is a miracle—one to be enjoyed, noticed, never taken for granted.
Take the tissues.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality. Reviewer’s Note: There are a couple of sex scenes between McAdams and Gosling.
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writers: Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi (from the novel by Nicholas Sparks)
Cast: Allie: Rachel McAdams; Noah: Ryan Gosling; Ms. Nelson: Gena Rowlands; Mr. Calhoun: James Garner; Lon: James Marsden; Allie’s Mother: Joan Allen; Noah’s Father: Sam Shepard.
The movie’s official Web site is here.
Author Nicholas Sparks’ Web site is here.
If you’re interested in getting free copies of the novel and starting a book club, go here.