Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Noel Diary: Movie Review

A Christmas romance in sullen drama form about death, grief, and forgiveness.
The Noel Diary features Justin Hartley as Jake Turner, a famous and successful author returning to his childhood home after his mother passed away; and Barrett Doss as Rachel, a woman on search for the identity of her birth mother. It’s a subdued drama about two strangers connecting with one another as they deal with past traumas. Which then of course turns into a romance.   2022

Directed by: Charles Shyer

Screenplay by: Charles Shyer & Rebecca Connor,
and David Golden
Based on the novel by Richard Paul Evans

Starring: Justin Hartley, Barrett Doss

It feels very different from the usual Christmas romances we get this time a year. For starters there is minimal comedy, a couple of jokes relating to the cuteness of Jake’s dog, and then it’s a sullen drama about death, grief, forgiveness and moving on.

The news of Jake's mother's death is broken to him by the executor of her will, plus the house and all of her belongings are now his. He wasn’t close to her, but there was a funeral and he never got the chance to say goodbye. It’s sad, but it’s also just weird. At the mother’s house we then meet his neighbor Ellie (Bonnie Bedalia) who clues us into the rest of his family drama: an older brother who passed away when he was a child and a father who took off shortly thereafter unable to handle the grief. Ellie thinks it’s time for him to forgive his father; Jake disagrees.

Meanwhile Rachel shows up a Jake’s door. She’s on the hunt for her birth mother, and all she knows was this address, and somehow that she was the nanny for Jake’s parents. It’s a helpful piece of information to have and yet Rachel never shares how she got it, probably because the writers couldn’t come up with any explanation for why Rachel doesn’t know her name but does know she was a nanny and the names of the people she nannied for. Jake doesn’t remember her, but guess who would – Jacob’s father.

It's a relatively slow-moving movie. Jake and Rachel on a road trip through small towns in New England in the days leading up to Christmas. Jake dreading talking to his father for the first time in decades and Rachel's reading from a diary found in Jake’s mother’s house that just happened to get thrown into Jake’s bag and of course belonged to Rachel’s mother.

It’s a will-they-won’t-they romance in movie form. Every time they get close to sharing a kiss something interrupts them – either Jake’s dog or the remembering of Rachel’s fiancĂ©e. We get to know Jacob well, but we don’t get to know Rachel nearly as well, so the romance feels a little one-sided.

All the trauma that the movie keeps wanting to throw in ends up as cheapening the story and removes any connection or realness to the characters. Justin Hartley does well and it is nice to get a much more mature Christmas romance, but if you’re not up for a sob-fest of repressed trauma, then The Noel Diary won’t resonate.

Want a different Christmas movie or just more holiday-themed movies? Holiday Movies