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

The Noel Diary starring Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss is for the warm-hearted, happy-ending believers. Read Pinkvilla's review of the new Netflix romance film below.

Updated on Nov 24, 2022 04:01 PM IST  |  126.8K
The Noel Diary
The Noel Diary review

Name: The Noel Diary

Director: Charles Shyer

Cast: Justin Hartley

Rating: 3 / 5

Language: English

Streaming Platform: Netflix


The Noel Diary is based on Richard Paul Evans' novel and follows the story of Jacob Turner (Justin Hartley), a best-selling author who makes an unexpected visit to his hometown after receiving the news of his mother's passing from her attorney. After being out of touch with his mother for years, Jacob returns to his childhood home to realise his mother had become a hoarder and now, he must clear out all the stuff that has been passed onto him. Amid 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 she has been searching for her estranged mother and soon on forming an unlikely friendship with her, Jacob decides to help her look for her mother which in turn also gives him a chance to work on his own broken relationships as he gets in touch with his father. As Jacob and Rachel bond, their emotional connection begins to grow stronger, complicating their relationship considering Rachel is already engaged. On realising their feelings for each other, will Jacob and Rachel receive a happy ending?


It's officially Christmas season and that means you are allowed to experience vicariously, the pleasures of unimaginable mushy romances from the comfort of your sofa as you sip on some hot cocoa and torture yourself with the "will they/won't they" end up together emotions. The whole Christmas romance genre each year gets a fresh set of love stories that eventually end up playing the same old tropes and yet, there are moments when you can't help but find yourself grinning a little as you watch a cliched proposal play out. 

In the case of The Noel Diary, there's nothing unusual or unique that you will experience. It's yet another romantic tale that gets the perfect Christmas movie treatment with all the elements playing out perfectly from the carol-singing kids and the snow-filled landscapes to Christmas market visits. Yet, there's something heartwarming about the film as you watch the two lead characters form a sweet bond that starts out on a sweet friendly note. I like the idea that it's not love but in fact empathy that brings Jacob and Rachel together given that he signs up to help her find her mother with nothing but good intentions. Jacob has had a difficult childhood, losing his mother and the eventual separation of his parents and hence, it's not all that surprising why he is scared to ever fulfil his own love story and take a leap of faith. Although with Rachel's character, there are certain aspects of her personality that don't get covered properly in the film, especially why her relationship with her fiance hasn't been working out. 

Another problem that the film suffers from apart from fully fleshing out its characters also happens to be its weak dialogue. Lines such as "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 a little artificial rather than natural. While the whole idea of Rachel learning about her estranged mother from a diary that Noel has written is interesting, it is not executed quite uniquely in the film and the hurry to keep the story on Jacob and Rachel's developing relationship rather than Noel's past seems to be the reason for that.  In terms of performances though, it's probably where the movie scores 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 its casting right and all those who have loved Justin Hartley in This Is Us, know well that Jacob Turner is the kind of role the actor can pull off extremely well. Hartley is familiar with the emotional drama space and hence turns out well in the film. The music of the film is also another element that keeps it from becoming a complete yawn-fest. There's also the supporting cast of James Remar and Bonnie Bedelia that make worthy appearances. 

Minus Points:

In terms of Christmas romances, considering the amount of films that are churned out every year, it's impossible to expect each one of them to work its magic and The Noel Diary seems to get stuck in the middle somewhere. It's not outrightly unenjoyable but it doesn't blow our minds either. The film goes through a storytelling pattern that's most cliched. 


  • Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss' chemistry
  • Charles Shyer easy on the eyes direction 
  • Score composed by Dara Taylor


The Noel Diary isn't the worst Christmas romance to come out yet but it isn't the best either. Justin Hartley and Barrett Doss's performances keep this holiday romance watchable but possibly in the strictly 'one time watch' space.  If you aren't in the mood to whip out the Nora Ephron classics but want to indulge in something, even more, breezier, then this could be your quick pick to spend an hour and forty minutes. 

ALSO READ: Falling for Christmas Review: Lindsay Lohan's comeback Christmas flick is breezy but far from iconic

Credits: Pinkvilla, Netflix

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