Hartley & Ross Have Electric Chemistry In Emotional Drama

Jan 27, 2023

Home Movie Reviews The Noel Diary Review: Hartley & Ross Have Electric Chemistry In Emotional Drama

Charles Shyer’s adaptation of The Noel Diary is charming and sweet, nailing the concept of personal growth within the confinements of its genre.

Justin Hartley’s rise to stardom comes as no surprise to fans of his work. From his early days as Fox Crane on NBC’s soap opera Passions, to roles like Green Arrow on Smallville, and his recent acclaimed performance on the award-winning series This is Us, Hartley time and again proves his ability as an actor when it comes to choosing diverse projects and executing them accordingly. In his latest, Hartley takes on life as a self-isolated writer hoping to grow from his past to make room for a great future. Adapted from Richard Paul Evans’ novel of the same name, The Noel Diary brings love and loss to the forefront of its script. The film exceeds expectations with respect to being a Netflix Christmas production, but it is thoughtful and sincere all the same.

The story follows Jake Turner (Hartley), an acclaimed author of a popular book series whose life has been centered around loss. After learning of his estranged mother’s passing, Turner returns home for Christmas to settle her estate affairs, reliving the memories of his once joyous childhood. There, Jake meets Rachel (Barrett Doss), the fascinating young woman who is on a quest to learn about her own past. Through learning about one another, Jake and Rachel realize that they’ve come into each other’s lives exactly when they needed. Together, the two embark on a journey that challenges their spirits about their past, love, and loss — discovering that they share connections in more ways than one.

Related: Christmas With You Review: Aimee Garcia Exudes Star Power In Genuine Holiday Rom-Com

Justin Hartley in The Noel Diary

Director Charles Shyer’s adaptation of The Noel Diary is charming and sweet, nailing the concept of personal growth within the confinements of its genre. Through Jake Turner, viewers can expect a journey of introspection amidst loss, and how that may shelter a person from being open to love and trust in the future. The showcase of this concept through the film’s characters is intricately detailed yet subtle, which translates to a watching experience that viewers can relate to and enjoy. Luckily, the added element of this being a Netflix Christmas romantic drama never interferes with the storytelling. Rather, the setting enables an atmosphere that feels as joyous as it is revealing.

As with stories like this, viewers may be expecting grandiose romantic scenery in between emotional conversations experienced by Jake and Rachel. However, Charles Shyer and David Golden’s script incorporates restraint, relying on Hartley and Doss’ chemistry and the natural emotion of the story. Suffice it to say, there are some lovely moments that would get any romantic’s heart beating faster. However, Golden and Shyer balance these moments well, which strengthens the movie overall. This balancing act isn’t revolutionary by any means, but somehow other films struggle to do so, which is why this one exceeds expectations.

Barrett Doss in The Noel Diary

Whether it’s finding the strength to rebuild relationships with estranged family members or researching unknown family history to learn more about oneself, The Noel Diary beautifully encapsulates the uncertainties that come with life, loss, and love. But these concepts really don’t work without the strong performances from the film’s cast. Justin Hartley has really come into his own as a capable actor. And in this case, his performance is stellar, showcasing his ability to emote on screen through dialogue and tone, facial expressions, and body language. It feels as if the role of Jake Turner was written for him. Barrett Doss as Rachel is simply exceptional. She commands every scene she’s in, and her chemistry with Hartley radiates off the screen and will find its way into the hearts of viewers.

With the tone of its script and beautiful storytelling of personal growth — all while being wrapped up in a setting that doesn’t mind leaning into the expectations of its genre —The Noel Diary is delightfully sweet and relatable. Though the ending leaves much to be desired, the electric chemistry between Hartley and Doss is enough to stand on its own. Additionally, Shyer’s direction, along with his and Golden’s writing facilitates, makes for a watching experience that is both entertaining and emotionally compelling. There will likely never be a time in movie history where holiday romance drama films like this one cease to exist. But if they continue to bring the quality like in The Noel Diary, they definitely won’t have to.

Next: Leonor Will Never Die Review: A Wild Ride That Is Gorgeous & Inventive

The Noel Diary is now streaming on Netflix. The film is 99 minutes long and not rated.

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