Netflix Noel’s diary brings to life Richard Paul Evans’ 2017 holiday story with Justin Hartley (This is us) and Barrett Doss (Station 19) starring. These two have a lot of issues to uncover as well as bring together – and knowing how these movies go, they’ll likely find love along the way. So this Noel’s diary worth putting at the top of your Christmas list? Or should you keep Noel’s diary locked in a Christmas box?
Essence: Justin Hartley plays Jake Turner, a best-selling author who is extraordinarily handsome, which has been commented on numerous times throughout the film because Justin Hartley plays the guy. When Jake learns that he has suddenly become the steward of his estranged deceased mother’s estate, he is forced to return to his hometown, settle her affairs, and work out his own issues (if he can).
However, he’s not the only one hanging around at his mom’s house. A mysterious woman, Rachel Campbell (Barrett Doss), appears and reveals that her adoption papers led her to this address and that her mother worked as a nanny in the house. From there, Jake and Rachel set out to get information from the only person alive who might have an idea about this enigmatic nanny: Jake’s father, even more aloof but also more alive (James Remar). How will Jake deal with meeting the man who dumped him decades ago? And will Rachel ever find her mother?
What movies does this remind you of?: Imagine a movie version of a darkly sentimental holiday song/ghost. christmas shoes — which was apparently turned into a CBS movie starring Rob Lowe in 2002. Or maybe it’s Family stone for two.
Show worth watching: James Remar – whom I remember from modern Miracle on 34th Street – does a great job of humanizing a father who left his wife and child after a terrible tragedy. There is a sensibility to his performance that doesn’t feel forced or a cover for impending disappointment. It’s a movie filled with sad twists and turns, so Remar’s sincere performance feels like a breather.
Memorable dialogue: Jake to his neighbor Ellie (a warm idiosyncratic performance by Bonnie Bedelia) on the challenge: “What did Robert Frost always say? He said, “The best way out is always through,” right? Though I’m pretty sure he’s never met a miser.
Holiday Tradition: One of the cities that Jake and Rachel pass through during their trip is hosting a Christmas show that includes It’s a wonderful life.
Two doves: If a marathon of holiday movies about kids reuniting with their estranged parents doesn’t sound like a complete bummer to you, you might want to watch Noel’s diary followed by Kirk Franklin “The Night Before Christmas” — about a separated mother and daughter — when it premieres on Lifetime on December 10.
Does the name make sense?: The movie is about Rachel finding her biological mother’s diary and her mom’s name was Noelle… so yeah.
Our opinion: There’s room for holiday rom-coms that skip the comic part entirely – maybe holiday rom-coms. The holidays are all about feeling things in general, whether it be emotions of joy or sadness or nostalgia in all its pleasant and painful forms. Noel’s diary also amazes with all the emotions. There are chuckles here and there, as well as a few light-hearted moments between Jake and his neighbor Ellie. There are also some big, cathartic moments that are geared towards making you reach for the tissues, like in the episode This is us. If you thought Noel’s diary can last 100 minutes, keeping us from Justin Hartley making life-changing decisions in the rain, think again.
Main selling point Noel’s diaryhowever, it must be a relationship between Hartley and Doss. They do a great job as people who go from strangers to emotionally close travel partners in minutes. You know they’re going to hook up eventually (how could they No?), so the wrinkle associated with Rachel’s engagement instantly makes the film more scandalous than any Hallmark screening.
There is a point where Noel’s diary capsizes in drama drama territory, and this shift could undermine your relationship with the film’s central novel. That’s when you really need to ask yourself what you want from not only your holiday movies, but Hartley’s movies as well. If you turn that on while expecting to see a charming romance between Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss, you should adjust your expectations. If you like to be blinded by the holiday lights of a movie and then get stuck in your head for the whole evening, then this is not the movie for you. If you want a patient journey movie about dealing with past traumas and mild infidelity, this is more like an atmosphere.
Our call: SKIP THIS. This is us fans might want to see Justin Hartley touch their heart at Christmas, but Noel’s diary it might pull a lot.