Sweeping romance directed by Nick Cassavetes, set in a small coastal town in the American South - partly in the 1940s, and partly in the present day. In the present day scenes, an elderly man (James Garner) reads from a faded notebook to an old woman (Gena Rowlands) whom he regularly visits at her nursing home. As he reads, a passionate love story unfolds about a young couple - Noah Calhoun and Allie Hamilton (played in flashback scenes by Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) - whose fledgling love affair was abruptly ended by circumstances and the sudden outbreak of World War 2. But although fate drives the young couple apart, they continue to be haunted by memories of their affair, and when Noah returns from the war seven years later, he realises that he cannot forget the promises they made to one other - despite the fact that Allie is engaged to be married to another man.
When you consider that old-fashioned tearjerkers are an endangered species in Hollywood, a movie like The Notebook
can be embraced without apology. Yes, it's syrupy sweet and clogged with clichés, and one can only marvel at the irony of Nick Cassavetes directing a weeper that his late father John--whose own films were devoid of saccharine sentiment--would have sneered at. Still, this touchingly impassioned and great-looking adaptation of the popular Nicholas Sparks novel has much to recommend, including appealing young costars (Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) and appealing old costars (James Garner and Gena Rowlands, the director's mother) playing the same loving couple in (respectively) early 1940s and present-day North Carolina. He was poor, she was rich, and you can guess the rest; decades later, he's unabashedly devoted, and she's drifting into the memory-loss of senile dementia. How their love endured is the story preserved in the titular notebook that he reads to her in their twilight years. The movie's open to ridicule, but as a delicate tearjerker it works just fine. Message in a Bottle
and A Walk to Remember
were also based on Sparks novels, suggesting a triple-feature that hopeless romantics will cherish. --Jeff Shannon
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