The Notebook: Film Review

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It’s time for what I imagine would be an unpopular opinion. 2004 saw the release of what probably is the most iconic romantic film of the 21st century: The Notebook. Featuring stars such as Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the film tells the story of a romance barred the the class divide in the late 1930s America. The film features flashbacks to and from the present and past, as an old man tells the story, in parallel to the film, to his mentally degenerative wife. The romance takes place in part over several years, and during periods of separation, Gosling’s character would write letters to McAdam’s character every day which her mother would block, hence the title of the film.

I personally did not find the film particularly impressive.  Romantic films are a thing that need to be done right to be done well, and I didn’t find the relationship itself especially promising after the first time they were separated. McAdam’s need for freedom from an ordered lifestyle is well demonstrated (which is very important when that life also happens to be a privileged one), but it doesn’t do enough to sell her motivation for me. In that sense the fall felt too quick. The cheesiness, which I can be more than forgiving for in a romantic film, isn’t well taken, and motifs like the “dream house”, for example, are not especially convincing. It comes across as too sappy, too meditated at times in the writing for it to sell the relationship; and I don’t feel either one of Gosling or McAdams, two actors for whom I have enormous respect, have reached anything resembling their potential in this film.

Some of the plot details threw me a little as well. For one thing, the reveal at the end is possibly the most obvious of any I’ve ever seen, the kind I could have told you just from reading the synopsis, and the actual trajectory of the two lead characters is not particularly realistic. The resistance from McAdam’s character’s family does invoke emotion without a doubt, that was one of the strongest aspects of the film. In that sense however, it’s the concept of obstacles in romance that an audience commits to, not so much the characters, which in my opinion defeats the purpose. Any film can sell a concept, that’s not the hard part. You need to be able to sell it in the context of the film, and while the film does that, it’s not up to a mark that I think it needs to be.

Of course there’s a thin line to respect here. Romantic films aren’t always made with the first priority being to be written succinctly, or to be made thoroughly authentic. Sometimes a film is made as a picture of love as the storyteller sees it, and that’s not always something that can be assessed per say. With that in mind, it’s important to note that I did not connect with the film, that does not mean, by any means, that you won’t. That’s the trouble with romantic films, they happen to be more subjective than most. Everyone has a different way of looking at it, more so than a drama or an action film which is made with more objective messages in mind. Overall, I’d say I was not personally a fan of The Notebook, but as possibly one of the most iconic films of the 21st century, and without a doubt one of the most iconic romantic films of the 21st century, maybe it deserves not to be taken at face value.

– Aman Datta

Aman’s Score – 63/100                                                         Aryamaan’s Score – 79/100

Aryamaan’s view is quite the opposite.

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