The Notebook is a 2004 romantic drama film directed by Nick Cassavetes, based on the romance novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young couple who fall in love during the early 1940s. Their story is narrated from the present day by an elderly man played by James Garner, telling the tale to a fellow nursing home resident, played by Gena Rowlands (who is Cassavetes' mother).
The film performed well on the box-office and received several award nominations, winning eight Teen Choice Awards, one Satellite Award, and one MTV Movie Award.
At a modern-day nursing home, an elderly man named Duke (James Garner) begins to read a romantic love story from his notebook to a female fellow patient (Gena Rowlands).
The story begins in 1940. At a carnival in Seabrook Island, South Carolina, local country boy Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) sees seventeen-year-old heiress Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) for the first time and is immediately smitten. She coyly resists his advances until their well-meaning friends lure them together; he courts her, and they find each other on a midnight walk through empty Seabrook, where she tells him she loves to paint. Noah and Allie share an idyllic summer love affair together. One moonlit night, a week before Allie is to leave town, when their deep romantic passions and desire to be alone together are the strongest, Noah takes her to an abandoned house called Windsor Plantation. Noah tells her that he intends to buy the house, and Allie makes him promise that the house will be white, with blue shutters, a walk-around porch, and a room that overlooks the creek so she can paint. She places an empty picture frame above the mantle. She plays Chopin on the house's old, out of tune piano. She asks him to make love to her. Their haltingly sweet attempt to make first love is loudly interrupted by Noah's friend Fin (Kevin Connolly) with the news that Allie's parents have "gone crazy" and have the police out looking for her. When Allie and Noah return to her parents' mansion, her disapproving parents ban her from seeing Noah, whom they called "trash, trash, trash," ever again. Allie fights with them, then with Noah in the courtyard, and the two break up. Allie immediately regrets the decision but Noah drives away.
The next morning, Allie's mother announces that they are returning home to Charleston immediately, that day. Allie frantically tries to find Noah, but is forced to leave with her family. The Hamiltons send Allie to New York, where she begins attending Sarah Lawrence College. Noah, devastated by his separation from Allie, writes her one letter a day for a year without reply, as Allie's mother intercepts and hides the letters from her. Noah and Allie have no choice but to move on with their lives. Allie continues to attend school, while Noah and Fin enlist to fight in World War II. Fin is killed in battle. Allie becomes a volunteer in a hospital for wounded soldiers. There, she meets an officer named Lon Hammond, Jr. (James Marsden), a young lawyer who is handsome, sophisticated, charming and comes from old Southern money. The two eventually become engaged, to the delight of Allie's parents, although Allie sees Noah's face when Lon asks her to marry him. When Noah returns home from the war, he discovers his father has sold their home so that Noah can buy the Windsor Plantation, fulfilling his lifelong dream and keeping his promise to the departed Allie, whom by now he hasn't seen for several years. While visiting Charleston to file some paperwork, Noah witnesses Allie and Lon kissing at a restaurant, causing Noah to go a little crazy, convincing himself that if he fixes up the house, Allie will come back to him. While trying on her wedding dress, Allie is startled to read, in a newspaper and quite by accident, that Noah has completed "their" house. She faints. The picture of Noah and the house haunt and trouble her, and she acts. Telling Lon she "needs to take a break," to "take care of a few things" and "clear my head," and against her better judgment, she visits Noah in Seabrook and he, when the shock of seeing her once more subsides, invites her inside, then to join him at dinner. They eat their dinner in the very room of their first lovemaking, near the piano on which she played Chopin.
In the present, it is made clear that the elderly woman is Allie suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which has stolen her memories. "Duke," the man who reads to her, is in fact her husband and first love Noah, repeating the story of their romance. Allie recognizes neither him nor their grown children and grandchildren, who beg Noah to come home with them. He insists on staying with his true love and sweetheart Allie.
The film returns to the forties. Allie returns to Noah and the two take a boat ride and are caught in a thunderstorm. Allie asked Noah about why he did not write her, and he reveals that he did. Noah and Allie make love into the night. The next day, Allie's mother appears on Noah's doorstep, telling Allie that the jealous Lon has followed her to Seabrook. After a confrontation turned heart-to-heart, Allie's mother returns the bundle of Noah's 365 hidden letters. When alone, Noah confronts Allie about what she is going to do; Allie confesses that she doesn't know. and once again, they fight. Noah asks her to ignore what he, or Lon, or her parents want and asks, again and again, "What do YOU want?" Confused, unable to answer his question, Allie returns to the hotel. On the way she stops and reads the last of his letters, She confesses to Lon, who is angry but admits that he still loves her. He tells her that he does not want to convince his fiancée that she should be with him, but Allie tells him he does not have to, because she already knows she should be with him but, tellingly, not that she WILL be with him.
The film picks up the now lifelong lovers, as "Duke" asks Allie whom she chose. She realizes the answer herself, that the "story" he was reading was their story; young Allie appears at Noah's doorstep, having left Lon at the hotel and chosen Noah. They embrace in reunion. Elderly Allie suddenly remembers her past before she and Noah/Duke joyfully spend a brief intimate moment together; after originally finding out about her illness, she herself had written their story in the notebook with the instructions for Noah to, "read this to me, and I'll come back to you." But soon Allie relapses, losing her memories of Noah yet again. She panics, and has to be sedated by the physician. This proves to be too difficult for Noah and he breaks down. The next morning, Noah is found unconscious in bed and is rushed to the hospital; he later returns to the nursing home's intensive care ward. He goes to Allie's room later that night, and Allie remembers again. When Allie questions Noah about when she won't be able to remember anything anymore, he reassures her that he will never leave her. She then asks him if he thinks their love for each other is strong enough to 'take them away together.' He states that he thinks their love could do anything. After telling each other that they love one another, they both go to sleep in Allie's bed. The next morning, a nurse finds them in bed together, having both died in each others' arms.