2004-07-23 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

Can love conquer all, including Alzheimer’s Disease and/or senile dementia? “The Notebook” says yes, if but for brief moments... moments that are worth living for. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks (who also wrote,“A Walk to Remember”), “The Notebook” is framed around a special relationship between two nursing home patients. Throughout the day, an elderly suitor (James Garner) courts his less-than-lucid date (Gena Rowlands) by reading her a handwritten story from a notebook.

It tells of two young lovers, Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams), from different sides of the South Carolina tracks (she’s rich, he’s not) who become enamored only to be split apart by World War II. While he’s fighting in the trenches overseas, she does nursing duty back home, soon finding herself engaged to a handsome and wealthy victim/veteran. Thanks to her mother (Joan Allen), Allie never receives one of the letters that Noah writes daily. However, after the war and on the eve of her wedding, Allie spots a newspaper picture of Noah standing before the Southern mansion that he’d promised to renovate for her... and he did. She goes rushing to him to see whether the sparks are still there... and they are. As the old beau reads the story, his listener is captivated, yet senses something familiar. The audience would have to have dementia not to guess the “surprise” ending. It doesn’t matter. Only the hardest of hearts would not be touched by Garner and Rowlands’ sweet tragic portrayals. “I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul,” says Garner in voiceover, “and for me that’s been enough.” One cynical reviewer was unmoved by the sentiment, doubting that love could overcome dementia or any disease. My father suffered from Alzheimer’s for 15 years, but on the day he died, he did what he always did when my mother approached him: He smiled. He may not have remembered her name, but he recognized the love that they both felt. “The Notebook” taps into the truth. Which is why the film’s finale is a flood fest of tears.

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