The Notebook is a 2004 romantic film directed by Nick Cassavetes, based on the 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, the director’s mother.

Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Produced by Toby Emmerich
Mark Johnson
Written by Jeremy Leven
Jan Sardi
Nicholas Sparks (Novel)
Narrated by James Garner
Starring Ryan Gosling
Rachel McAdams
James Garner
Gena Rowlands
Sam Shepard
James Marsden
Joan Allen
Music by Aaron Zigman
Cinematography Robert Fraisse
Editing by Alan Heim
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) May 20, 2004 (Seattle International Film Festival)
June 25, 2004
Running time 123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $29 million[1]
Gross revenue $115,603,229

The film opens with an elderly man reading out of a notebook to an elderly woman about a story between two young lovers, Allie and Noah. The story dates back to the summer of 1940 in Seabrook, South Carolina. Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams) is a girl from a wealthy family spending the summer in Seabrook. At a carnival, Allie meets Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling), a local boy who works at the lumber mill. Over the summer, Noah and Allie fall passionately in love and spend every moment together.
Allie and Noah break up, but immediately regret the decision. Allie’s family leaves Seabrook the next day and Noah, devastated, writes her one letter every day for a year, which Allie’s mother hides. After Allie doesn’t reply to him, Noah moves to Atlanta. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, he enlists in the army for World War II while Allie attends college.

While in college, Allie volunteers as a nurse’s aide for wounded soldiers and meets the injured Lon Hammond, Jr. (James Marsden) — a young man who is handsome, charming, and from a wealthy family. Lon and Allie get engaged; meanwhile, Noah returns home. Noah’s father greets him and informs Noah that he is selling his current house so that Noah can purchase the old Windsor Plantation (the old abandoned house that Noah promised he would restore for Allie so that they could live there together). While visiting Charleston, South Carolina, Noah sees Allie walking down the street. He watches her go into a restaurant and smiles when he sees her, but then he witnesses Allie and Lon kissing. Devastated, Noah restores the old house, believing that if he keeps his promise to her, Allie will come back. Once he is finished building the home, Noah tries to sell it, but cannot bear to part with it.

In the present, it is evident that the elderly woman is Allie and the storyteller is Noah. However, she does not recognize their children and family due to her deteriorating dementia.
The film switches back to 1947. While trying on her wedding dress amongst family and friends, Allie reads about Noah’s house in the paper and faints. After some deep thinking, she decides to visit him. Noah and Allie talk during dinner, and Allie makes it clear that she’s getting married. They reminisce on their memories together, and when it is time for Allie to leave, Noah asks Allie to come back tomorrow for a surprise. The next day, Noah takes Allie out on the lake in a canoe to a picturesque setting amongst geese and they begin to talk. On the way back to the house in the rain, Allie gets upset and demands to know why Noah never wrote to her. Noah tells her he wrote to her every day for one year. He says to her that “it wasn’t over, it still isn’t over.” They kiss passionately and proceed to the house to make love. After two days of passion, Allie’s mother appears while Noah is out and says that Lon has followed her to Seabrook. Allie’s mother takes her for a drive to the lumberyard. She explains how she too once had a summer romance, and that she still watches her ex-lover sometimes. Once they drive back to Noah’s house, Allie’s mom hands her daughter the bundle of 365 letters that Noah had written, saying that she hopes Allie makes the right choice. Allie explains to Noah how Lon is in town and how the past few days had been wonderful, but very irresponsible. Noah is furious, accusing her of only loving Lon for his money, and says that if she leaves, he will hate her forever. He tells her that if she really wants to be with Lon, then she should go, because he lost her once and could do it again. Confused, Allie drives off.

Distraught, Allie stops her car, reads Noah’s goodbye letter, and then drives to the hotel where Lon is staying so she can talk about what happened. Allie says that she knows she should be with Lon, implying that she’s going to stay with him. However, the scene switches to Noah, who hears a noise from a car outside. Getting up, he sees it is Allie, who appears to have left Lon and come back to him.
Switching back to the present, Allie realizes that she and Noah are the people in the book. It is only a few minutes until she relapses again and begins yelling and pushing Noah away. Later that night Noah looks at the books and the audience finds out that Allie herself wrote the book with this message written on the front: “Read this to me, and I’ll come back to you every time.” Noah is also looking through a photo album, this tells the audience that Noah and Allie got married, had children and had a wonderful and loving life together.
The next morning the nurse finds Noah in a critical condition. He is saved from his heart attack and sneaks into Allie’s room at night when he comes back from the hospital. She wakes and is able to remember Noah and asks him whether their love is strong enough to make miracles and take them away together. Noah says that their love can do whatever they want it to do. In the morning, they are both found dead, lying peacefully side by side, holding hands. The film closes with a flock of birds flying over a lake.