Nicholas Sparks’ first novel The Notebook is what made him famous and was later turned into a movie. A romantic candle light dinner quickly turns into horror as Allie is restrained and sedated because she forgot who her husband was. Allie suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, so her husband Noah reads to her every day to trigger her memory. She lives in a world of isolation because she doesn’t remember who her family is and doesn’t do her favorite hobbies anymore.
Noah stays by her side in the nursing home they live in, holding together the bond they once shared before they became strangers. The Notebook is the most realistic romance movie because it shows the hardships couples face as well as the effects that illness has on the inflicted person and everyone around them.
Romantic drama movies are usually whimsical with how love is perceived as being simple (Galloway, Engstrom, & Emmers-Sommer, 2015).
Average plots follow the same old path of boy meets girl, they fall in love, and get married. The end. The Notebook takes a more unique approach by intertwining tragedy throughout the movie which keeps the viewers intrigued. This isn’t a film where the ending can’t be foreshadowed within the first half hour of watching. The plot twists relate to real instances that a lot of people face and shows the dark side of love that no other movie wants to acknowledge (Galloway, Engstrom, & Emmers-Sommer, 2015).
The first realistic aspect shown in this movie are Noah and Allie’s young love when they met as teenagers.
They fight which is true among every couple of any age. Nobody is perfect, and arguments happen which this movie expresses with scenes of yelling and tears shed. Relationships aren’t always happy and it’s refreshing to see a romantic movie not follow the cliché path of flawless couples. Allie’s parents are wealthy and disapproved of lower-class Noah from the start. Allie was going to college in the Fall and her parents were moving. They didn’t think their daughter’s fling would last the entire summer and as school was approaching they realized that the young couple was in love. They worried that Allie wouldn’t have wanted to go because that would mean she’d have to leave Noah behind. So, they did what they thought was best and began to drive a wedge between the two. Allie’s father talked to Noah telling him to drop the relationship and find a girl in his league.
After Allie and Noah got in a fight over her leaving for college, they broke up. The next morning, she had already left. Noah wrote to Allie once a month for two years in which he never got a reply. It turned out that Allie’s mother had hidden Noah’s notes, so she wouldn’t be sidetracked from school. Allie’s parents had the resources to send her to college and had good intentions for her future but went about it all wrong. They were controlling and decided for Allie to end the relationship because college was more important than a boy. A lot of young couples today experience this problem when they date in high school but leaving for college usually leads to breaking up. Parents want the best for their kids and it’s understandable to try to lure them to make good decisions but it’s overbearing when they try to influence how a teen tries being independent.
Noah and Allie’s relationship in their old age while living in the nursing home is even more complex than when they were young. Allie thinks of Noah as a friendly stranger whom she politely listens to. He introduces himself to her every day and asks if he can read her a story about their love life. He is persistent when he reads because even though it might take months, occasionally Allie gets a few hours of memory back which is triggered by the story. When the memory comes back, her and Noah soak up every second until it abruptly ends with Allie falling back into her dementia.
Noah loves Allie even though she rarely even knows who he is. He lives with her in the nursing home because her Alzheimer’s got too bad for him to take care of her from home. He admitted himself into the nursing home the same time she did, so he could be by her side. Noah’s suffering from arthritis and diagnosed with cancer but chose not to seek treatment because he wanted to spend his healthy years with Allie. At one point, Noah had snuck into Allie’s room in the middle of the night and accidentally woke her up. He immediately regretted his decision because he knew she was going to start screaming and alert the caregivers, but she kissed him. She whispered, “Oh, Noah…I’ve missed you” and they make love (Literary Gem, 2000, pg. 307). Romance movies are notorious for sex scenes, but this scene is a moment of passion between two old people which is never seen (Lazar & Hirsch, 2018). But it’s a part of life, just because people get old doesn’t mean they aren’t sexual beings anymore. It’s just that nobody thinks about it because our movie culture only focuses on young couples. This gives the perception that sex is only for the young, this is a movie where elderly people can relate (Lazar & Hirsch, 2018).
The effects of having Alzheimer’s or any illness are extremely hard on the inflicted person. In Allie’s case she feels lost and secluded because she can’t remember who anybody is, not even herself. When she dips back into her disease after a clear moment, she gets scared and starts to scream which is stressful and bad for her health. She feels sad when she regains her memory because of all the time she’s missed. She also profusely apologizes to Noah because she’s embarrassed that she led them into the nursing home. A lot of ill people feel these emotions even though they may not show it. Maura Mcintyre, a journalist from the University of Toronto explains, “There shouldn’t be any stigma attached, any more than for somebody who has developed cancer or Parkinson’s or anything else. It’s another disease. The public needs to know that there’s nothing dirty or unclean about Alzheimer’s” (Mcintyre & Cole, 2008, pg. 222). Mcintyre is specifically talking about Alzheimer’s, but it could relate to any illness that somebody is going through. People who are suffering from an illness feel stigmatized and often fight their battle alone because they don’t want to bother others (Mcintyre & Cole, 2008). This movie gives insight and understanding for those who are suffering and how they feel sorrier for their loved ones over themselves.
It’s not only the person being afflicted by the illness who is suffering, it’s also everybody around them. In this case, Noah gets sad and frightened every time Allie freaks out. No matter how many times it happens, he still gets heartbroken over how distraught and unsafe Allie feels in his arms. This makes the caretakers always on edge because the only way to calm Allie during these moments are to restrain and sedate her (Mcintyre & Cole, 2008). The staff feels guilty for not doing more for Allie during her forgetful episodes. But they allow Noah to keep trying to jog Allie’s memory because the illness is only going to get worse to where she won’t have any memory again. (Mcintyre & Cole, 2008). Noah and Allie’s children feel neglected because Allie doesn’t know who they are. Whenever the family comes to the nursing home to see them, Noah introduces Allie to the family as a friend of his as if they don’t already know who she is. This keeps her calm but after the introduction she always gets up and leaves to allow Noah to visit with his family in private. So, Allie’s kids and grandkids don’t even see her for more than ten minutes. Illness takes a great deal of support even though it poses as a sacrifice for everybody involved.
The Notebook did a great job on not sugar-coating the difficult aspects of life. It portrays the hardships that relationships face though all stages of life. This movie reaches out to a broader audience of older people because the storyline is based on the elderly version of Noah and Allie. It also educates the viewers about what illness does to people behind closed doors by giving viewers a peek into the life of those suffering. This movie hides a deeper message of not only the meaning of love but the meaning of life.