The Notebook

The Notebook, directed by Nick Cassavetes, is a sweet story, primarily about young love. In the beginning, a man (played by James Garner) is reading a story from a book in an institution to a woman (played by Gena Rowlands, the director’s mother). Both are senior citizens. She has dementia, so she enjoys the story but cannot remember much about her life; he is a visitor. The movie flashes back and forth between the present day and a dramatization of the story, which is about two seventeen year olds, Noah Calhoun (played by Ryan Gosling) and Allison Hamilton (played by Rachel McAdams), who are courting in the resort town of Seabrook, North Carolina (though the film is shot around Charleston, South Carolina). Allie is from a proper middle class family, whereas Noah lives with his father, both of whom are manual laborers at the local sawmill. One day, while Allie is riding on a Ferris wheel with a boyfriend, Noah suddenly rides up to her and asks her to go on a date. After he holds one of the spokes with only one hand, she agrees, but he has to ask her again later when he spots her in town. Unlike any boy whom she has ever met, Noah makes her laugh by getting her to come out of her shell through delightfully crazy antics; she also takes up the pastime of painting. Soon, she is in love with him, though her parents John (played by David Thornton) and especially Anne (played by Joan Allen) do not approve because he is “white trash.” At the end of the summer, Allie is slated to attend Sarah Lawrence College, so the relationship appears to have been just a summer romance. They have a spat over the way that they handle the unwanted separation and break up unhappily. Nevertheless, Allie cries herself to sleep for months thereafter. Noah writes a letter each day, but Allie’s mother confiscates the letters before Allie ever sees them. The United States enters World War II, so Noah is off to the war. Allie, still missing Noah, volunteers as a nurse aide at a hospital that receives the sick and wounded from the war; she pretends that every soldier is Noah. One day, Lon Hammond (played by James Marsden), a patient, asks her for a date if ever his massive wounds heal. In time, he indeed does so, and their romance develops to the point of an engagement ring, with a date set for the wedding. Unlike Noah, Lon is from a wealthy family, has a good job, and all four parents are happy about the forthcoming marriage. Although custom might suggest that a former boyfriend would learn about wedding bells in a wedding announcement posted after the great event, Allie is obviously haunted by the memory of her first love, so just before the wedding she decides to drive to Seabrook to see Noah again. In the intervening seven years, Noah has returned from the war in one piece. His father Frank (played by Sam Shepard) has sold his house so that Noah can use the proceeds to fulfill a dream of buying a certain ramshackle two-story Southern Colonial and fixing up the mansion, though his father evidently dies before the reconstruction is completed. For companionship, Noah receives regular visits from a young widow, Sara Tuffington (played by Heather Wahlquist), whose husband died in the war, but he sets aside a room for Allie to paint. What attracted Allie’s interest in seeing Noah again is an article in the local newspaper about the newly rebuilt mansion, including a picture. While they were courting, Noah had promised to carry Allie across the threshold of that very mansion after a thorough remodeling, so she drives to see the result for herself. The old flames burn again, especially when she sees the room prepared for her to paint, but love triangles now intersect. The rest of the sweet story consists of how Allie resolves her conflict between what her parents and fiancé want and what she wants as well as how the woman with dementia remembers the outcome of the story. In a classical European romantic story, lovers in different social classes have to endure the pain of unrequited love, but American love stories seldom acknowledge the rigidity of the class structure, and American filmviewers will expect The Notebook to have a happy ending. In any case, the notebook’s author is identified at the end of the film. The film is based on the 1996 novel by Nicholas Sparks. The Notebook may be best appreciated when viewed at home along with

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