TV & Movies

11 Things I Noticed Rewatching The Notebook

The beloved romance turns 19 this year.

Rachel McAdams as Allie in 'The Notebook'
New Line Cinema

The Notebook first premiered 19 summers ago, and its impact on pop culture can still be felt today — from its now booked-and-busy stars, Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, to the higher standard it set for heartwrenching romance movies. In fact, Allie and Noah’s tumultuous love story inspired many movies — and even some reality stars. Who can forget when Scott Disick once slipped into character as Noah Calhoun to woo his then-partner, Kourtney Kardashian?

It’s easy to see why The Notebook endures. Like Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story before it, the film follows a pair of young, star-crossed lovers — only in this story, they find a way to get together and grow old together. Decades later, when Allie is diagnosed with dementia, Noah dutifully reads their love story from her titular notebook to spark her memories. Such is the strength of their love (it can “create miracles,” they decide) that Noah and Allie ultimately pass away at the very same time, in each other’s arms.

In honor of the film’s latest anniversary, here’s a recap of everything I noticed on my latest rewatch of the Nicholas Sparks adaptation — and if it’s been a while since your last viewing, too, there might be some surprising details ahead.

1. They’re So Young

If the first thing you do when rewatching an old movie is check the actors’ ages and throw yourself into an existential crisis, you’re not alone! To save you the trouble: Ryan Gosling was 23 when The Notebook came out, and Rachel McAdams was 25. That’s perfectly reasonable, given their characters’ romance begins when they’re still teenagers. But still — when you watch a movie like this as a kid, you tend to think of the leads as mature, proper Grown-Ups. That facade breaks down when you’re a fellow “adult,” too.

2. The Timing Of This Movie Is Wild

While we’re looking back, it’s worth noting that The Notebook premiered on June 25, 2004 — roughly two months after another iconic McAdams movie, Mean Girls. What a time for cinema!

Ray Mickshaw/WireImage/Getty Images

3. Red Comes Up A Lot

Back to the movie... are sunsets in the Carolinas just incredibly red? The opening scene of the movie sees present-day Allie watching the birds outside of her nursing home, and the entire scene — from the sky to the marshlands below — is awash in vibrant blood orange. But it could be a bit of foreshadowing because Allie favors the color in both the past and present. She’s wearing it the first time she meets Noah as a teenager, and as an older woman hearing the story of her life decades later.

4. The Notebook Was A Family Affair

Speaking of older Allie, she’s played by the magnificent Gena Rowlands. The heft of her star power likely escaped very young viewers the first time around, but it’s a big deal — as Richard Brody recently put it for The New Yorker, she’s “the most important and original movie actor of the past half century-plus.”

Despite more than proving her acting caliber in films like A Woman Under the Influence (for which she earned her first Oscar nod), Rowlands did have an in with this role: Nick Cassavetes, the son she shares with the late filmmaker John Cassavetes, was The Notebook’s director. So if the movie wasn’t emotional enough, you can now rewatch it with the knowledge that Cassavetes was directing his own mother going through all those devastating moments.

5. Noah & Allie’s First Meeting Was Problematic

Revisiting a favorite movie or TV show will often leave you cringing at the more problematic, “Was this supposed to be romantic?” moments. Naturally, The Notebook has a few of those. When Noah and Allie first meet at the carnival, he presses her for an explanation when she says she doesn’t want to dance. Then, when she’s on the Ferris wheel, he dangles from the structure, threatening to let go unless she goes on a date with him. It works out for the pair, but in the moment, Allie seems genuinely terrified at the ultimatum — and why wouldn’t she be?!

6. Their Song Is Major Foreshadowing

During their first official date, Noah and Allie dance to “I’ll Be Seeing You.” The sweet tune becomes their song, and Noah actually tells Allie, “I’ll be seeing you” right before they both pass away in each other’s arms at the end of the film. And in fact, the song’s lyrics about missing a loved one take on a tragic new meaning with the context of Allie’s dementia later in life: “I’ll be seeing you / In all the old familiar places / That this heart of mine embraces / All day through.”

7. It Birthed A Few TikTok Trends

When your brain is 95% trending TikTok sounds, it’s fun to happen upon one in the wild — and The Notebook actually birthed several. There’s Allie’s “I want a white house with blue shutters” speech, which people use to show off their dream homes; and Noah’s impassioned “What do you want?” moment, which perfectly describes those moments when you don’t know what you want to eat and it really isn’t that simple.

8. Lon Is A Catch

The best love triangles need to make a case for both prospective suitors. And even with his limited screentime, James Marsden’s Lon does that! He’s gorgeous, understanding, and pleasantly chill about his wife-to-be’s cold feet. “Take your time,” he tells her, before she goes to reconnect with Noah. “Do whatever you need to do. It’s OK to be nervous, alright?”

And even when he learns that Allie has strayed, he doesn’t give up on their relationship. In fact, he does something Noah was never very good at: gives her the space to decide! “I love you, Allie. But I want you for myself,” he says. “I don’t want to have to convince my fiancée that she should be with me.”

Though Lon was the right choice here (even Allie says she knows she “should” be with him), it was definitely a Taylor Swift “That’s the Way I Loved You,” situation in that the rocky, passionate relationship won out over the happy, steady one. Marsden put it best in a recent interview with W Magazine. The Notebook was a time where we liked the bad boy,” he said. “Now we want our heroes to be good guys.”

9. It’s All So #coastalgranddaughter

The Notebook’s love triangle is still fun to dissect on a rewatch, but romance is no longer my big takeaway from this movie. It’s the vibes: lunch by the water, plentiful porch chairs, the blue-and-white floral wallpaper in Allie’s Seabrook hotel room. The coastal charm!

10. It Could Have Been A Very Different Movie

There are deleted scenes from The Notebook that add context on a rewatch, though it’s probably best they were left out of the final cut. For example, in one missing scene, the older Noah recounts the early stages of Allie’s dementia — and makes Allie’s decision explicit about filling the titular notebook with their story.

The theatrical version leaves more to mystery, simply conveying Allie’s intent in one of the film’s final scenes where Noah reads her note: “Read this to me, and I’ll come back to you.”

11. There Might Be An Unreliable Narrator At Work

Speaking of which, the central conceit of the film means there’s room for an unreliable narrator. It’s definitely possible Noah skips or embellishes when reading Allie’s words back to her. As he tells the doctor in the deleted scene, it’s a “complicated arrangement” they have.

“If she knows too soon that I’m Noah, and she’s Allie, then she becomes terribly afraid,” he explains. What viewers (and Allie) see is likely a carefully curated version of Noah and Allie’s love story: one that hits all the right notes but, ostensibly, avoids details that might upset Allie unnecessarily.

So, let your retroactive fan theories fly! Clearly, even two decades later, there’s still a lot to talk about when it comes to The Notebook.