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The Noel Diary - Everything You Need To Know

When the holiday season rolls around, it's always a delight to discover a new Christmas movie. And if you want to mix that holly jolly feeling with a bit of romance, then "The Noel Diary" might be the perfect present for you to open.

Based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Richard Paul Evans (who's established himself as a skilled writer of Christmas stories with other tales like "A Christmas Memory" and "The Christmas Promise"), "The Noel Diary" was released on Netflix on November 24, 2022. The film explores age-old holiday themes like family and love while also grappling with the past. With a skilled filmmaker at the helm and an impressive cast, "The Noel Diary" is sure to make you feel as warm as a hot cup of coco, and if you want to know more about this Netflix Christmas treat, read on for everything you should know about "The Noel Diary."

What is the plot of The Noel Diary?

"The Noel Diary" introduces us to Jake Turner, a handsome romance novelist who's just learned that his mother has passed away. Needing to handle her affairs, Jake heads back to his mom's Connecticut home where he 1) learns his mom had become a hoarder and 2) finds a mysterious journal, one written by the titular Noel. Soon, Jake meets a mysterious woman named Rachel who seems particularly interested in Jake's home. Turns out, her mom used to be Jake's nanny. In fact, her mother is the one who wrote that aforementioned journal, and Rachel is hoping to find her mom.

Unfortunately, Jake doesn't remember his old nanny. Of course, he's a bit smitten with the beautiful Rachel and decides to lend a helping hand. The two set out on a road trip to find Jake's estranged dad, hoping he'll be able to let them know what happened to Rachel's mom. Along the way, they read more of Noel's diary, all while slowly but surely falling in love — which is complicated by the fact that Rachel is engaged. Will these two figure out what happened in their families' past, and will they fall in love amidst the snowy landscape and good holiday vibes?

Who stars in The Noel Diary?

Justin Hartley stars in "The Noel Diary" as the protagonist, Jacob Turner. Hartley also starred in the critically acclaimed TV series "This Is Us," "Jane the Virgin," and "Smallville," as well as in popular movies such as the animated film "Injustice" and Netflix's "Senior Year," making this his second Netflix original movie to date. 

Barrett Doss also stars in the film as Rachel, the young woman Jacob meets who's trying to find her birth mother. Doss found her footing in a 2013 episode of "30 Rock" and has since portrayed Victoria Hughes in the Shondaland universe of "Station 19" and "Grey's Anatomy."

As for the rest of the cast, Essence Atkins plays the titular Noel, and you may have previously seen her in movies like "A Haunted House" and series like "First Wives Club." Bonnie Bedelia of "Die Hard" fame plays the friendly neighbor of Jake's mom, and character actor James Remar ("The Warriors," "Dexter," "48 Hrs.") plays our protagonist's estranged dad. Other members of the cast include Andrea Sooch, Jeff Corbett, Lauren Yaffe, Mike Donovan, Whitney Kimball Long, Baylen D. Bietz, and Samantha Smart.

Who directed The Noel Diary?

"The Noel Diary" is helmed by veteran writer and director Charles Shyer. Shyer has several highly successful films under his directorial belt, including "Father of the Bride," "Alfie," and "Private Benjamin," and he's written far more. 

In addition to directing the film, Charles Shyer also took part in penning the script, with help from Rebecca Connor (a first-time screenwriter) and David Golden ("Dangerous Lies"). The producers of the film are Timothy O. Johnson, who has over 200 producing credits to his name, including other Christmas-themed movies such as "Dear Santa" and "Holiday Engagement." Margret Huddleston — who has experience directing Netflix originals, including "Love in the Villa" and "Love, Guaranteed" — Stephanie Slack and executive producers Hartley Stephens and Norman Stephens round out the team.

In other words, when it comes to romantic holiday fare, "The Noel Diary" has quite an experienced team working behind the scenes.

How are critics and audiences responding to The Noel Diary?

Believe it or not, "The Noel Diary" is a rare instance of a cheerful holiday rom-com where the critical scores are better than the audience scores. Granted, at the time of this writing, there are only eight critics reviews on Rotten Tomatoes versus 100+ audience reviews. Still, you'd think it would be the other way around.

On the critical side of things, "The Noel Diary" has a 63% approval rating. Lisa Kennedy of The New York Times summed up the generally good spirits, saying, "Director Charles Shyer brings a journeyman's ease to the screenplay (based on Richard Paul Evans' novel by the same name): embracing holiday movie expectations here, gently deflecting them there." In fairness, on the negative side of things, Amanda Guarragi of Ready Steady Cut wrote, "It has some sweet moments, but it doesn't necessarily work because [Justin] Hartley is a bit too detached from the role and doesn't sell the romantic lead at all."

As for audiences, "The Noel Diary" just has a 57% approval rating. Granted, that means over half of reviewers enjoyed the film, but that still counts as a rotten score. Ultimately, you'll have to make up your own mind if "The Noel Diary" works just as well on the screen as it does on the page.

What is The Noel Diary rated?

Most Christmas movies are upbeat films that are generally safe to watch with your family, and that's pretty much the case for "The Noel Diary." The film is rated TV-PG, and while it is a romance, it's pretty light on the sexual content, other than a few implications here and there. Netflix also categorizes the film as "charming," "heartfelt," and "feel-good," implying that there is a happy ending and that younger viewers are unlikely to be disturbed by the content of the film.