The Notebook

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Notebook Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
More sexy stuff than you'd expect for a syrupy romance.
  • PG-13
  • 2004
  • 124 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 45 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 119 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's ultimate message is that true love conquers all. But there are also less-positive takeaways influenced by the time in which the movie takes place -- people of color are often portrayed as subservient, and both Ali and her mother say: "I am a stupid woman," as though repeating a truism that they have learned.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though it's romantic to watch characters fall in love so wholly and stay devoted to each other, some of the choices that the lovers make -- like cheating on a relationship and lying to family members -- don't qualify as role model behavior.


Noah and Finn are engaged in active duty during World War II. There's a bomb raid that incurs heavy losses. Ali nurses soldiers who have lost limbs. Noah and Ali fight passionately -- so much so that she hits and slaps him. Some poignant deaths.


Steamy passion between the two young lovers. Lots of making out and heavy petting, and characters undress in front of each other (only their shoulders are shown). A fairly graphic lovemaking scene (again, just shoulders visible, plus a brief glimpse of breast from the side).


Words/phrases used include "damn," "crap," "goddammit," "son of a bitch," and "pain in the ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A 17-year-old smokes a cigar. Adults drink cocktails, wine, champagne, and beer. Noah goes on a 10-day drinking binge. Characters drink in excess to ease pain or to lessen their inhibitions. Most meals are accompanied by alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this three-hanky World War II-era romance has pretty steamy sexual content for a PG-13-rated movie, including very passionate kissing and a fairly graphic lovemaking scene (though only shoulders are shown). A teenage couple agrees to have sex, but then she becomes very flustered and anxious, and an engaged girl has sex with a man who isn't her fiance. Characters drink and smoke; there's also brief battle violence and some poignant deaths. Teens will be watching with rapt attention to pick up clues about what true, passionate love looks like, but this type of sensual story may not be appropriate for the youngest teenagers.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBernadette5 January 18, 2009

So much for Morals...

I guess in our world of no morals, and I guess some may think I am living in a shell, but I still must say how disappointed I am to think that so many of my dau... Continue reading
Adult Written byjulianna92 October 3, 2019

The Olive Garden of romantic films

This film is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks and it’s your average romantic film: there is forbidden love and parents don’t approve and want the girl to marr... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byChelsea_NC August 29, 2020


THIS SUCH A TOUCHING STORY! This movie is so underrated! There are a few scenes that imply, but nothing is shown from the shoulders down. I am not one for any t... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byRoyalBaguette November 29, 2019

Gives people the wrong idea

What I'm most disappointed about is actually the reviews. Literally no one is talking about how this movie promotes and encourages stalking behavior to get... Continue reading

What's the story?

A man comes to read to a woman in a nursing home. It's a story about a summer romance between Allie (Rachel McAdams), the daughter of wealthy parents, and Noah (Ryan Gosling) a poor boy. They are crazy about each other. But her parents suddenly decide they have to break up, and they send her to school up north. He writes to her every day. She never responds. Then he goes off to fight in World War II and she falls in love with a handsome wounded officer named Lon (James Marsden) and agrees to marry him. But she sees Noah's picture in the newspaper. He is restoring the house he once told her he would make into a home for the two of them. Even though she has all but forgotten him and is perfectly happy being engaged to Lon, she has to see Noah once more. And after she sees him, she has to decide which man is the one she really loves.

Is it any good?

In THE NOTEBOOK, the details and dialog are a bit clumsy, but in the end romantics won't care. Also, it's hard to believe in Allie's feelings for Noah or Lon, partly because none of them ever come alive as characters. It's all description, not depiction.

We do care about the couple in the nursing home, but the connection to the other story is never strong enough to keep our attention. Gosling is one of the most talented actors of his generation, but he's not as good in this role. James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Sam Shepard as Noah's father and Joan Allen as Allie's mother give the material more than it deserves, and director Nick Cassavetes clearly wants this film to be a love letter to Rowlands, his mother. She is luminous, and we do believe she could inspire great love. Too bad the movie isn't a little bit better.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts love and romance. Is this what a relationship is "supposed" to be like? Why or why not?

  • How does the movie treat sex? Parents, talk to your kids about the real-life impact and consequences of sexual activity.

  • How do we know who we are meant to be with? Who should we listen to as we think about making that choice?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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