Allie (Gena Rowlands) is in a nursing home suffering from dementia and Duke (James Garner) reads to her from a worn notebook. He is reading the story of how they met, in a bid to trigger some long lost memories. This is their story. Seventeen year old wealthy debutante Allie (Rachel McAdams) meets Noah/Duke (Ryan Gosling) while on holidays in Seabrook, North Carolina during the 1940s. They fall passionately in love, with Noah's father's (Sam Shepard) approval; but Allie's snobbish parents John (David Thornton) and Anne Hamilton (Joan Allen) drive them apart. After the war, Allie becomes engaged to Lon (James Marsden), but Noah has never loved anyone but Allie. When Allie sees Noah's photo in the local paper, she heads to Seabrook to see him again.
Review by Louise Keller:
A potently rich story about the power of love, The Notebook is heartbreakingly beautiful and achingly real. Director Nick Cassavetes (John Q) approaches this poignant story about dementia and relationships with great sensitivity, focusing always on the unique bond that links its two central characters. This three tissue affair impacts like a wave crashing on the shore, especially in the film's last half hour.
Like Iris, the structure of this adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' novel alternates between the present day and when the two lovers first meet. Strangely enough, it never matters that Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling as the young couple, and James Garner and Gena Rowlands as the older couple physically do not match; we connect with both stories.
Garner and Rowlands (Cassavetes' real-life mother) offer the kind of gravitas you would expect, and our hearts jolt when Allie says 'This is a good story - I think I've heard it before.' The scene when Duke introduces their children to Allie suddenly changes the mood, and our hearts ache. Gosling (Murder by Numbers) and McAdams (Mean Girls) have genuine chemistry together and we believe in their relationship: Gosling brings truth by understatement while McAdams is the epitome of the conflicted poor-little-rich girl, struggling to find the commitment of her heart.
The mood of much of the film is set by the fresh but tumultuous relationship between the young lovers. They might be opposites in every way, but the chemistry between them seals their bond. They have fun together - they dance in the street, laugh in the rain - and can't get enough of each other. 'She has too much spirit for a girl of her circumstance,' muses Allie's ambitious mother Anne (Joan Allen is sensational), wanting only the best for her daughter. And when towards the end, Anne says 'I hope you make the right choice,' the expression on Allen's pained face, reveals everything.
We know exactly where the story is heading, and Cassavetes handles the climactic moments of the young lovers' fate beautifully, prolonging the magic of the moment. He uses Aaron Zigman's melodic orchestral score, and Robert Fraisse's beautiful cinematography to the max, and the slow-motion images of soaring birds over a tranquil river saturated by the reflected crimson sunset are simply beautiful. Billie Holliday's vocals of 'I'll be Seeing You' (used throughout) is left to haunt us.
The tragedy of Alzheimers is only the backdrop for The Notebook. The film itself is about that ultimate and revelatory emotion - love.
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NOTEBOOK, THE (PG)
CAST: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, James Marsden, Sam Shepard, David Thornton, Joan Allen
PRODUCER: Lynn Harris, Mark Johnson
DIRECTOR: Nick Cassavetes
SCRIPT: Jeremy Leven (Nicholas Sparks - novel; Jan Sardi - adaptation)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Fraisse
EDITOR: Alan Heim
MUSIC: Aaron Zigman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Knowles
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 14, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: February 10, 2005
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