The Noel Diary Parent Guide
More than a romance, this movie is a hopeful and healing story about forgiveness and fresh starts.
Parent Movie Review
Jake Turner (Justin Hartley) is living his best life. The best-selling novelist is mobbed at book signings before retreating to his chic, mid-century country home to enjoy his collectibles and listen to jazz with his favorite companion – his loyal dog, Ava. It’s a lonely life, but it’s what he wants, or at least what he think he wants, which is pretty much the same thing.
The news of his mother’s death comes as a shock. As her heir, Jake must return to his hometown, clean out the hoarded possessions of 20 years and figure out what to do with everything else – including the legacy of heartache that has riven his family apart.
Another complication appears when Rachel (Barrett Doss) shows up at his door. She’s also searching for family, in her case the birth mother who gave her up for adoption and who once lived in Jake’s family home. With the help of a neighbor and an old diary, Jake and Rachel soon find themselves on a road trip to answer Rachel’s questions and heal Jacob’s scars.
I had low expectations of this film since it’s based on a book by Richard Paul Evans and I am not a fan of his work, finding it overly treacly. If you love his books, please don’t take this personally. I have a shriveled up little critic’s heart so I tend to shy away from sentimentalism. Luckily, my fears were for naught and The Noel Diary turned out to be a pleasantly watchable film. Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss bring their very good-looking characters to convincing life, give them authentic emotions that don’t go over the top, and have enough chemistry to keep the movie warm without ever sizzling. Best of all, Christmas is almost incidental to the plot, so this movie is not crushed by the weight of Christmas decorations in every conceivable nook and cranny. There’s more music than tinsel in this film, and the jazz standards and seasonal tunes are a real festive bonus.
Family audiences will be pleased with the number of positive messages in the script. This movie powerfully delivers its messages of patience, persistence, forgiveness, and family reconciliation. It’s a reminder of the critical need we all have for acceptance, belonging and love in our families and how that security is a critical building block for adult life. The story also demonstrates that it’s never too late to heal what’s been broken or to have a fresh start. The Noel Diary is more than a romance, it’s a hopeful and ultimately healing journey. These factors, combined with a paucity of negative content (minimal swearing, implied but unseen sex), make this movie safe watching for pretty much anyone who wants a clean romance flick.
That said, the movie has some flaws that drove me crazy, the worst of which is the ending. Romance movie fans expect a big finish and this movie has an excruciatingly abrupt finale. None of the elements fans expect are in the ending – the happy ever after is clearly visible and then the movie ends without the satisfactory wrap-up that would take two or three minutes of screen time. The movie also mishandles winter (you can’t leave people in cold cars for HOURS, drivers need to scrape side windows, etc.) which will irritate viewers who live in cold climates. Less fussy viewers, however, will enjoy this warm-hearted hopeful story of love warming away the chill of loss, loneliness, and uncertainty. It’s sweet and sincere and you really can’t ask for much more in a rom-com.Directed by Charles Shyer. Starring Justin Hartley, James Remar, Bonnie Bedelia. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release November 24, 2022. Updated November 24, 2022
Watch the trailer for The Noel Diary
The Noel Diary
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Noel Diary rated TV-PG? The Noel Diary is rated TV-PG by the MPAA for mild themes.
Violence: There is discussion of the accidental death of a child.
Sexual Content: There are scenes of men and women kissing. An unwed teen pregnancy is a plot point. Sexual activity is implied but never seen.
Profanity: The script contains a handful of terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink wine with meals.
Page last updated November 24, 2022
The Noel Diary Parents' Guide
Why is Jake’s family divided? How did his parents’ choices affect Jake? How does Jake overcome the heartache of the past? What role does Rachel have in helping Jake change his family? How does helping Rachel wind up benefiting Jake? Do you learn anything from this film that can help you with a difficult relationship?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on the novel The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans. Other Christmas books by Mr. Evans include A Christmas Memory, The Noel Letters, The Mistletoe Promise, The Mistletoe Secret, The Noel Stranger, The Mistletoe Inn, Noel Street, Finding Noel, Lost December, The Gift, A Christmas Memory, Promise Me, and Finding Noel.
Mystery author Anne Perry has written several Victorian Christmas novellas with a forgiveness theme. These include A Christmas Return, A Christmas Journey, A Christmas Resolution, A Christmas Hope, and A Christmas Grace.
Related home video titles:
An author reconnects with her family’s Scottish roots in A Castle for Christmas.
With the surprise end of her marriage, a woman takes a trip to Africa to try and heal her broken heart in Holiday in the Wild.
Adoption is a key plot element in many films, including the recent release Lifemark. An idealistic couple takes in three foster children in Instant Family. A young teen in a warm-hearted foster home becomes a superhero in Shazam! An attentive football mom notices the needs of a young player and invites him into her home in The Blind Side. A mother searches for the child she gave up for adoption in Philomena.