A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
For kids who love romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.