Friday, December 2, 2011

Why I love "The Notebook"

I’m not a film expert. As far as my film credentials go, all I can claim is that for two years I lived in Los Angeles. But as an LDS missionary in those two years I was anything but a film critic at the time.

However, I believe I know why movies are such an integral part of our society and our world. Because I know what it is to come to the end credits of a film and realize that for two hours I was in a completely different reality, loving every moment. I know what it’s like to be genuinely afraid of a character in a film simply because the acting was so excellent. I know what it is to put myself in the shoes of a hero and live his adventure and save the world if only for a few fleeting scenes. For these and many other reasons, I love movies.

Now, there are a lot of really terrible movies out there- stagnant, disconnected, incoherent, brittle films that provide ample material for film critics. I find it sad that so much creative energy on the part of these critics is wasted blasting what ought to have been better-executed creative works. But the fact that there are such “better-executed” works out there is why there are even movie critics at all. And our eager searching of the “weekend” section of the paper for one of these less common reviews shows just how much we hope to find one.

Yet even positive reviews say only so much. In the world of films, there are those critically acclaimed and others that are merely “popular” but not so beloved by critics. There is likely no better example of this than “The Notebook.” While critics condemn, I think this should be considered a modern classic.

On, the Notebook is given the condemning green splatter and a mere 52% rating. Some call it sappy, others unrealistic. Some say it will stop at nothing to jerk tears from the viewers’ eyes. But to me, this story of summer love lost and found again against great odds and against all reason, will forever be one of my favorites. And it will be because it does what I think makes a film truly great.

Contrary to popular belief, I feel it stays within the bounds of possibility, if not likelihood. And the same reason I love this in an action film- keeping the character believable but meanwhile mind-blowing for the audience- is why I love it in a romance. One is lost in an almost dream-world only to realize that perhaps such things really do exist. Perhaps love so strong, love so inexplicably beautiful could be real.

And I’m writing this because such love is real. Being so bright as I am it took me a little while into the film when I watched it for the first time to realize who the elderly couple was, but as soon as I knew, they were no longer characters to me. They were two people that I know and love very dearly.

Nearly a decade ago my grandmother suffered a stroke, leaving her unable to speak, unable to move half of her body, and completely dependent. But every day since that stroke, my grandfather has been at her side, helping her through each struggle. In their little house in the desert hills of California, he tirelessly tends to her needs, even though she is unable to say anything in return.

When it hit me who Duke and Mrs. Calhoun really were I didn’t dismiss the whole film as a foolish fairy tale, I instantly knew how real and true the story was. I knew that Noah loved Allie so deeply because I know how truly Glen loves Ruth.

The Notebook captured a notion of love that some considered too improbable and fantastical, but in the fashion of a truly great film, it reminded me that such dreams really can and really do come true.

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