The Noel Diary review: Flawed execution fails great premise

Netflix’s The Noel Diary is a heartfelt drama that focuses on best-selling author Jake Turner as he returns home after his estranged mother’s death near Christmas. Coincidentally, a woman named Rachel also shows up to the Turner house, looking for her birth mother, who she believes was Jake’s nanny.


Acclaimed author Jake Turner’s estranged mother passes away during the holidays and leaves everything to him. He is called back to settle her estate by an attorney, but isn’t too keen on returning to his old abode.

However, he takes his beloved dog Ava and does the needful. Once home, he meets his old neighbour Ellie, who was great friends with his parents. She helps him feel more at home with grilled cheese, tomato soup and comforting conversations.

As Jake gets busy slowly clearing out his old house, a woman named Rachel shows up. She claims to be an orphan who is looking for her birth mother. After much research, she found out that her mom was a nanny for the Turners, but Jake doesn’t remember her.

They ask Ellie about it and she mentions that Rachel’s mom was 17 when she worked as a babysitter for the Turners. However, she left before her baby was born.

She urges them to visit Jake’s dad — who he hasn’t seen in 35 years — for answers. Jake is hesitant but Rachel manages to convince him. They get on the road as Rachel discovers a diary from the 70s that belonged to her mother.


Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss play Jake and Rachel respectively. Both actors are extremely charismatic in their roles and shell out a decent performance with respect to the source material.

However, they lack a certain level of intensity that a layered plot like this requires. Their past is quite troubled and their internal struggles very deep, but they don’t succeed to emote all of that turmoil to great effect.

Bonnie Bedelia appears in a small role as Ellie. The veteran actor plays a very polite elderly woman, who acts as a support system for Jake when he comes back home during a tough time.

James Remar shows up in a cameo as Jake’s dad, Scott Turner. His depiction of a guilt ridden old man desperate to make amends with his son is quite convincing and emotional.


The Noel Diary has a great premise that builds into a very heartfelt story. The two characters are shown to be deeply affected by their respective pasts and find a way past that misery through relatability.

Some of the conversations they have are quite thought provoking and make you introspect about dealing with death, growing up without parents, estranged relationships and trust issues.

Furthermore, Hartley and Doss share great chemistry on-screen, which is an added bonus for the film.

Jake and Rachel are also shown to be extremely nice people which helps the viewers to cheer for their love story as it gradually brews. The pace of the film is quick and the plot doesn’t get boring at any given point of time.


The film suffers from poor execution overall as certain creative choices that drown the immersion. There are scenes where dialogue is muted by loud music for cinematic effect, but it doesn’t work at all.

The part with Jake and his dad is also quite mellow. Having not spoken for 35 years, they solve their differences pretty quickly. Similarly, Rachel deciding to not meet her mom after spending most of the film dreaming about it is just a weird decision.

Jake and Rachel’s road trip is touted to be a remedial experience for their past sorrows, but ends up focusing more on their love story. It would have been way more enjoyable if the drama was given as much importance as the romance.

The characters lacked an arc where they grew into better versions of themselves as they came to terms with the conflicts in their lives. Not to mention that the story was filled with romantic clichés.


The Noel Diary is a passable holiday romance film which you can put on if you’re looking for a quick and easy watch. However, it is still a missed opportunity and could have been a much better film with smarter execution.

The Noel Diary
The Noel Diary review: Flawed execution fails great premise 1

Director: Charles Shyer

Date Created: 2022-11-25 10:00

Editor's Rating:

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