It is potentially one of the most popular romantic movies that came out in the past twenty years – so much so that it needs almost no introduction. Noah (Ryan Gosling/James Garner) and Allie’s (Rachel McAdams/Gena Rowlands) love story is a fairy tale romance from the first moment to the last picture of the movie. Not many would think of The Notebook as a film that showcases dementia, but in fact the story framing the story we all know and love revolves around just that. The film that so many cherish is a story of undying love; love that is so resilient that it remains unshaken even when Allie’s dementia means her no longer recognizing Noah, their children or herself.
“You called me darling. Who are you? Am I supposed to know you?”
Sentimental and tear-jerking
The sole reason for Noah moving in to the home for the elderly is to be with his wife Allie. Noah reads their love story to her over and over again. Some days Allie ‘comes back’ and realizes that the novel she is listening to is their story; who they were, how they met and what they mean to each other. Noah lives for these moments of her clarity; those few minutes where she recognizes him to be the love of her life, her husband, the father of her children. It gives him just enough hope to have patience until the next time of Allie’s ‘remembering’ comes.
“What happened to me? – Nothing. You just went away for a little while.”
Although Noah is fully aware of the nature of Allie’s condition, that there is no chance of her becoming her old self again, he is not disheartened. He re-creates moments for her where she remembers; reading their story, putting on their favourite music and having dinners by candlelight. As syrupy as this may all seem, the movie has a great message regarding the amount of patience, understanding and acceptance that is needed when caring for someone with dementia.
Winning the public’s sympathy
The film in its entirety is very Hollywood-esque and paints a rather ‘perfect’ picture of dementia as well. There is no mention of the day-to-day struggles or portrayal of any physical decline. There is also no real depth or development in Allie’s character; we only see a confused elderly lady who snaps in and out of remembering. It should be noted that the aim of this storyline is to illustrate how strong Noah’s love is for Allie, hence this idealistic portrait of dementia beautifully fits into the narrative of the film. Its role is not to paint a raw and real picture as it’s only a contextualizing frame within the movie’s structure. However, the sheer reach of a film is very important in terms of public awareness and providing reference points for any given topic. This is why The Notebook is worthy of mentioning when it comes to films bringing dementia into sight and into mind for so many. Noah and Allie’s story has become part of mainstream popular culture and reached masses worldwide. This meant that an incalculable number of viewers grasped Allie’s condition and could empathize through Noah with all those who have to go through ‘losing’ their loved one to forgetting.