When a best-selling author learns that his mother passed away, he heads home to clean out her house. In the process, he meets a woman with ties to the house, and they find The Noel Diary that connects them both in a unique way. Here's a full review of the cast, the story, and my thoughts on whether the movie is worth adding to your list of Christmas movies to watch this year.
The Story of The Noel Diary
Spoiler Alerts: I try not to give away too much of the plot, but my review does give away some spoilers.
Jacob Turner (Justin Hartley) is a best-selling author who is used to living a solitary life. It's usually just he and his dog Ava. He left home when he was only 17 years old and hadn't been back in twenty years. Going back to his family home opens up old wounds, and memories from his childhood.
While cleaning out his mother's house, he gets a visit from Rachel (Barrett Doss). She is looking for her biological mother and was told that she lived in the house before Jacob's family was there. Jacob recruits the help of his mother's neighbor Ellie (Bonnie Bedela) to see if she remembers. She doesn't remember the girls name, but she does remember the Turner family having a live-in babysitter during that period. The person who would have the answers is Scott Turner (James Remar), Jacob's father.
Jacob hasn't seen his Dad in 35 years, but with something drawing him to Rachel, he agrees to join her on a trip to Vermont to speak with him. On the ride there, Rachel comes across a diary that falls out of Jacob's bag. When she opens it up, she just happens to open up to the page where the author says that her name is Noel, she is 17 years old, and about to give birth to a baby girl.
The Noel Diary Sub Plots
The Noel Diary is actually multiple stories that intertwine. Yes, it's the story of Rachel and her search for her biological mother. But, it's also the story of Jacob's re-union with his Dad. And, the family tragedy and heartache that he has carried with him all his life.
And of course, these sub-plots put Rachel and Jacob together. She is engaged to Alan, but it's clear that her heart is drawn to Jacob. Will she follow through on the feelings that she has for Jacob, and end her relationship with Alan?
The Noel Diary Book
The Noel Diary is based on the book by Richard Paul Evans. The New York Times calls him, “the King of Christmas fiction.” He has a whole Noel holiday collection that includes three books.
- The Noel Diary
- The Noel Stranger
- Noel Street
Is The Noel Diary A Christmas Movie
Of course the short answer to this is yes. But, I personally wonder if it really is a Christmas movie. The only thing that makes it a Christmas movie is that it takes place during the holidays. Sure Jacob and Rachel hit a small town Christmas festival and watch It's a Wonderful Life outdoors, but other than that there isn't much Christmas cheer. So to me it didn't feel much like a Christmas movie.
The Noel Diary Review
The Verdict: Disappointing. The Noel Diary is better than the other Christmas movies on Netflix this year. I liked it more than Christmas With You and Falling For Christmas, but that doesn't mean that it's good. It's OK, but it has flaws. Maybe it's me and the high expectations that I had.
I'm used to seeing Justin Hartley in This Is Us and this movie does not live up to that. It doesn't have the same emotional and moving scenes that This Is Us is known for. I have to believe that the book is wonderful. I can see the potential in this movie, but I think that squeezing the story into 99 minutes limits the depth that the movie can go into each of the storylines.
I also had a problem with a few of the scenes. I had an issue with his visit to his Dad. Jacob goes inside to help his Dad decorate the Christmas tree and Rachel just stays outside. I understand that she's giving them space to chat, but come on. She's going to stand outside in the freezing cold waiting for him? I don't think so.
The other scene that really bugged me is a scene at a hotel. They're on the road, yet their hotel room has about 50 candles in it? Completely unrealistic and would not have happened.
A Recap of The Movie
The Noel Diary has a wonderful cast and that's probably it's biggest strength. It was so great to see Bonnie in the movie. Makes me want to go watch a Die Hard movie. The movie is also a great introduction to Richard Paul Evans and I'm excited to read one of his books. I think that he does a wonderful job telling a story and I'm sure that his book has the depth and emotion I was hoping the movie would have.