Everyone deals with heartache in their own way. Some surround themselves with friends, others with new material possessions, others with a new object of affection. Over the last 15 years, however, another common coping mechanism has revealed itself - pyjamas, junk food of the sweet variety, and re-watching 'The Notebook'.
Told in two separate timelines, ‘The Notebook’ recounts the tumultuous summer romance between Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling, ‘First Man’, ‘La La Land’) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams, ‘Game Night’) in the 1940s. Differing social classes, war, anger, intervening parents and infidelity are all obstacles that stand in Allie and Noah’s way, but despite these, the couple’s love for each other is strong enough to eventually withstand them all. Cue the tears.
‘The Notebook’ was not the first time a Nicholas Sparks novel had been given the Hollywood treatment; following 1999’s ‘Message in a Bottle’ and 2002’ ‘A Walk to Remember’. The first in a long line of Nicholas Sparks novel adaptations (which gradually declined in quality), they have became an unofficial series which has often been joked at for its trend of "white man holding the face of his white love interest" posters. But what makes ‘The Notebook’ more memorable than those previous films is the relatability of the plot; the chances of finding a romantic message in a bottle or falling in love with a girl dying of cancer are much slimmer than having had a summertime fling.
The reason Allie and Noah’s epic romance has permeated hearts and pop culture alike is obvious: it reminds us of what it’s like to be young and in love for the first time. Allie and Noah spend every waking moment of the summer they fall in love together, and this only adds to the drama and the feeling that their first breakup is the end of the world. It's a feeling that everyone has felt at least to some degree in their lives, even if the real-life versions of such romances don’t always end in reconciliation like Allie and Noah’s. The want for a perfect ending is so widespread to this day that UK Netflix have an alternate version of the film in their library, in which Noah and Allie hold hands in bed after Allie’s memories finally return, cutting out the very last scene of the theatrical version in which nurses find the couple have died in their sleep overnight. Art imitated life when McAdams and Gosling became a real-life couple, sending the idolisation of Noah and Allie’s romance to supernova status. It followed a decade's long desire for audiences to see their Hollywood idols fall in love both on and off the screen.
'The Notebook' managed to become both a model and the antithesis for romance films that followed in its footsteps.
While it is easy to swoon over Gosling because, well, it’s Gosling (ironic since director Nick Cassavetes wanted to cast a lead what wasn’t "handsome"), let’s not forget that some of Allie and Noah’s behaviour in the film borders on obsessive, abusive and dangerous. From Noah hanging from the top of a ferris wheel during their first meeting, threatening to fall if Allie doesn’t accept a date, to Allie’s continual hitting and slapping Noah during arguments, this is not a model for a healthy relationship (which makes the fact that this film is considered one of the most romantic of all time quite concerning). The years of their relationship that the film covers does not favour them either; if anything, Allie and Noah becomes more selfish and destructive as time goes on. They paved the way for similarly self-absorbed onscreen couples (such films as ‘6 Years’, ‘Like Crazy’ and ‘Adoration’ are examples) who don’t care who they hurt, all in the name of love.
While ‘The Notebook’ doesn’t necessarily hold up the older and more cynical you become, its impact on the romance genre is undeniable. It managed to become both a model and the antithesis for romantic dramas that followed in its footsteps, a film whose success is to be envied, and a film whose characters are to be considered cautionary tales. Either way, this is a film whose impact won’t be forgotten any time soon.