The Noel Diary (2022)

The Noel Diary
Director: Charles Shyer
Writer: Charles Shyer, Rebecca Connor, David Golden
Based on: Richard Paul Evans‘ novel
Cast: Justin Hartley, Barrett Doss, Bonnie Bedelia, James Remar, Essence Atkins, Aaron Costa Ganis, Andrea Sooch
Seen on: 6.12.2022

Jake Turner (Justin Hartley) is a successful author who hasn’t returned to his hometown in a while. But now his mother died, and he has to clear out the house. It is a big task, and while he is steadily working at it, a young woman comes to the house, Rachel Campbell (Barrett Doss). She is looking for information on her mother who gave her up for adoption, and pretty much all she knows is that she worked for the Turners as a nanny for a while. The search for more information leads both Rachel and Jake to question their family histories and secrets together, growing ever closer as they do so.

The Noel Diary is a more subdued, not as saccharine holiday romance that isn’t actually that much of a Christmas movie. Whether that is something you like or not will probably depend on how much you love the usual kind of holiday movies and whether you expected to get it here. I, for one, really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Rachel (Barrett Doss) and Jake (Justin Hartley) looking intensely at each other.

The Noel Diary is very obviously a romance, even if it is a more laid-back one and not as frantic and comedic in tone as holiday romances tend to be. So fear not, you do get a happy end and there are a couple of familiar tropes the story moves through along the way. But it generally treads more softly, with a more introspective feel. Rachel and Jake don’t fall for each other head over heels, they approach each other cautiously and while figuring a lot of things out for themselves. I found that dynamic very refreshing.

And I liked both of them a lot. Especially with Jake I had my doubts that I would – a successful, good-looking author? Those kind of characters tend to be insufferably arrogant and the movie usually needs to invest some time to make the likable. Not so here: Jake is sweet and seems mostly bothered by his success and his looks which makes him kind of endearing. And Rachel was very relatable in her attempt to find herself by finding her past. that Doss and Hartley have excellent chemistry makes things even better.

Rachel (Barrett Doss) and Jake (Justin Hartley) driving in a snow-covered car.

The film touches on some rather heavy topics and while it does aim for the audience’s tear ducts, it’s never sensationalist about those things. They are part of the character’s life and they need to find a way to deal with those things which isn’t easy. But that’s life, the film seems to say, dramatic and hard things happen without making a drama of it.

Even if The Noel Diary doesn’t nail every scene, it works overall – and very well indeed. I can definitely see myself revisiting it when I’m in need of something soft and sweet.

Rachel (Barrett Doss) and Jake (Justin Hartley) sitting closely together.

Summarizing: very nice.

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