3 STARS – HEARTWARMING
When dementia takes those we love from us into a fearful fog, it is difficult to know how to respond. Should we leave them to their mental solitude or attempt to reach them through tracing the steps of our love and relationship? Is there a way through the memory-blocking wall that has separated them from us or will we only risk adding to our pain and their fear?
Written in the romantic style of his earlier novels that inspired “Message in a Bottle” and “A Walk to Remember,” author Nicholas Sparks helps us understand this emotional choice. Directed by Nick Cassavetes, “The Notebook” is a moving tribute to love, loyalty and loss.
Unaware that her solution would be both effective and increasingly short-lived, Allie (Rachel McAdams as a young woman and Gena Rowlands as the senior) wrote the story of her love for Noah (Ryan Gosling as a young man and James Garner as the senior) in a notebook, so he could read it to her and, in her words, “bring me back to you.”
Not knowing that it is her husband who has come to read to her, the elder Allie goes with him into a sunroom where he opens a notebook and begins with the sentence, “They met the night of the carnival.” From that moment on we travel two paths with them, the path that gave birth to their love and the path of their love’s return. Masterfully crossing the one with the other, the final joining and eternal union carries a deep emotional and spiritual message.
Believing the power of love to “do a miracle” which the doctors declare to be impossible, their belief in the power of love is rewarded. Where physicians and their medications come to an end, love begins its most potent healing. Reaching through their physical limitations, Allie and Noah are able to experience once again the depth of their love.
In a moving scene where the children come to visit but Allie does not recognize them and politely leaves to take a nap, they beg Noah to come home. They claim that their mother does not know him or them, and that he needs to get on with his life. It is then that Noah clearly states that Allie is his sweetheart and his life is with her. This sacrificial fulfillment of the marriage vow to “love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health” is powerfully healing both to him and to her.
Though the paths of our lives are seldom easy and never known before they are walked, the power of love to see us through the journey is needed when we could lose our way. Lived out in their youth when Allie sacrificed a life of luxury with a wealthy man in order to live a life of love with Noah, Noah now responds with a sacrificial love of his own. It is in living our lives with sacrificial love that helps us find a place of ultimate and eternal union.
- When people speak of love, they often think in terms of what they are getting out of their relationship. How do you think of love? Does sacrifice and love go together in your idea of true love?
- The fear that often accompanies mental dementia makes it all the more difficult to reach those we love. How would you reach your loved one if the fearful fog of Alzheimer’s Disease imprisons them? Do you have a “notebook” of your love story?
- The decision of Noah to build their dream house included the upstairs painting studio for Allie. Why do you think her fiancé, Lou Hammond (James Marsden), did not even know she painted? Why had she not shared her deeper self with him?
- The power of “first love” to bond us together has been compared with the chemical change that occurs in the fertilized egg that will not allow a second sperm to enter. Do you believe there is a spiritual, emotional and even physical bonding that takes place with our “first love?”