The Noel Diary Review: Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss’ Christmas love story is warm but clichéd

Language: English

Streaming: Netflix


Based on the novel by Richard Paul Evans, The Noel Diary follows the story of Jacob Turner (Justin Hartley), a best-selling author who makes a surprise visit to his hometown after receiving news of his mother’s death from her lawyer. After years of being in a relationship with his mother, Jacob returns to his childhood home to realize that his mother has become a hoarder and now he must clear out all the stuff that has been handed down to him. During this, Jacob notices a strange woman standing across the street from his house, staring inside. She soon introduces herself as Rachel (Barrett Doss), the daughter of a nanny who worked for Jacob’s family when he was a kid. Rachel reveals that she has been searching for her estranged mother, and soon, as he forms an unlikely friendship with her, Jacob decides to help her search for her mother, which in turn gives him the opportunity to work on his own broken relationships when he comes into contact with his father. As Jacob and Rachel bond, their emotional connection begins to grow, complicating their relationship as Rachel is already engaged. Will Jacob and Rachel have a happy ending when they realize their feelings for each other?


It’s officially the Christmas season, and that means you’re allowed to experience the local pleasures of unimaginable, tearful romance from the comfort of your couch as you sip hot cocoa and torture yourself with “will they/won’t they” end up together feelings. The entire Christmas romance genre gets a fresh set of love stories every year that end up playing out the same old romance and yet there are moments where you can’t help but find yourself smiling a little while watching a clichéd proposal play out.

In the case of Noel Diary, there is nothing unusual or unique that you will experience. This is another romantic story that gets the perfect Christmas movie treatment as all the scenes play perfectly from the kids singing Christmas carols and the snow filled scenery to the Christmas market visits. Still, there is something heartwarming about the film as you watch the two main characters form a sweet bond that begins on a sweet friendly note. I like the idea that it’s not love but actually empathy that brings Jacob and Rachel together given that he signs up to help her find her mother with nothing but good intentions. Jakob has had a difficult childhood, losing his mother and eventually his parents’ divorce, so it’s no surprise why he’s afraid to fulfill his own love story and take a leap of faith. Although with Rachel’s character, there are certain aspects of her personality that aren’t properly addressed in the film, especially why her relationship with her fiance hasn’t worked out.

Another problem the film has, apart from fully fleshing out its characters, is also its weak dialogue. Lines like “Guess life’s all about the chase” and “The best way out is the only way through” are thrown around making the whole idea of ​​a conversation between two characters seem a bit contrived rather than natural. While the idea of ​​Rachel learning about her estranged mother from a diary written by Noel is interesting, it’s not executed very well in the film and the rush to keep the story about the development of Jacob and Rachel’s relationship rather than Noel’s past. to be the reason for it. In terms of performances though, that’s probably where the film scores the highest given that both Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss share a heartwarming chemistry that makes us want to root for them.

Plus points:

The Noel Diary gets it right and all those who have loved Justin Hartley in This Is Us know well that Jacob Turner is a role that the actor can handle very well. Hartley knows the emotional drama space and it comes off well in the film. The film’s music is also another factor that keeps it from being a total yawn fest. There are also supporting actors James Remar and Bonnie Bedelia who make decent appearances.

Minus points:

As far as Christmas romances go, given the amount of movies churned out every year, it’s impossible to expect every single one of them to work their magic, and The Noel Diary seems stuck in the middle somewhere. It’s not exactly unfun, but it doesn’t blow our minds either. The film goes through a narrative pattern that is the most clichéd.


  • Chemistry Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss
  • Charles Shyer is easy on the eye
  • Music composed by Dara Taylor


Noel Diary isn’t the worst Christmas romance to come out yet, but it isn’t the best either. Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss’ performances keep this holiday romance watchable but possibly in the “one time watch” space. If you’re not in the mood to knock out the Nora Ephron classic but want to indulge in something, even more, lighter, this might be a quick pick to while away an hour and forty minutes.

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