Archive for the ‘The Notebook’ Category

In each Reel Life Journeys column, I try to illustrate a moral theme or Christian teaching with examples from films and family life.

I often use examples from science fiction and fantasy films, as I really enjoy the complexity and symbolism found in The Lord of the Rings, Superman, Back to the Future, etc.

Lately, however, I have enjoyed a genre of film that some may label as pure fantasy—romantic comedies. Granted, some of the plot devices are rather far-fetched. Would you really fly from Baltimore to Seattle to meet an insomniac with a nice radio voice? But these are very entertaining films that touch on fundamental human needs—to love and to be loved.

The next time you watch these films, think about the love lessons contained within.

Romantic comediesAfter another sleepless night in Seattle, Sam recounts the magical moment when he took his wife’s hand as she was getting out of a cab. It’s probably the same feeling he feels when he takes Annie’s hand as they leave the Observation Desk of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.

The spark of romance, a magical moment happens all the time when couples get together. Keeping the romance alive, however, takes kindness, communication and an active decision to love one another.

Asleep under shooting stars, I dream of a love unseen, a prayer yet unanswered.

When Harry met Sally, there was no magic or mutual attraction. They didn’t even think it was possible for a man and a woman to be true friends without a sexual relationship present. But friends they become, true friends who look after and support each other. Later, when their own love blossoms, it is based upon a solid foundation of friendship and support.

Over the hills comes the dawn, a soft and warm glow that pushes the night away and wakes my world.

Mary Hatch always had a hard time deciding what ice cream to order at Mr. Gower’s Drugstore. She was content to just listen to the boy behind the counter talk about exploring foreign lands, building tall skyscrapers and making lots of money to enjoy the finer things of life.

Unfortunately, he never gets the opportunities to travel, to design and create, or make a lot of money. Yet Mary always believes in him and supports him throughout their wonderful life together. “George Bailey,” she whispers into his bad ear, “I’ll love you ‘till the day I die.”

High into the morning sky climbs the light, creating new life and fulfilling my dreams.

It was difficult for Cathy and Caleb to live in the same house without angry arguments breaking the stone-cold silence. Both are successful in their stressful jobs—Cathy receives high praise for her hospital PR work while Caleb is a leader at the fire hall. But neither does a very good job at fireproofing their marriage. Their competing egos are two sparks that threaten to consume their union in flames.

Fortunately, they don’t give up. Caleb takes the Love Dare and finds new ways to relate to his wife. More importantly, he rediscovers his own faith. Once he knows the love of Jesus the Christ in his heart, Caleb is able to share it with his wife. Together they base their relationship on this everlasting love, an unquenchable fire that powers their marriage. (Fireproof is not a comedy, but a dramatic film every married couple should watch together.)

In the heat of mid-day shadows disappear, roots grow deep, and faces turn up to bathe in the love.

Noah doesn’t give up either. He fell in love the first time he saw Allie at the county fair. He stays in love with her even when she leaves town to marry a rich, well-connected lawyer. Noah remains at home and rebuilds his house.

When Allie returns, they consecrate their love in marriage and build a family. Even as they grow older and Allie stops remembering who he is, Noah still loves and cares for her. He sits in her room each day and reads the stories of their youth from his notebook. He waits for the magical moment when she will recognize him again and they can reconnect the love in their two hearts.

The light of this love is reflected from our faces onto our family and friends.

My wife and I recently celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, a milestone reached undoubtedly with the help of the love lessons from these films. At our wedding, I sang “Ave Maria” as Linda placed a rose on Mary’s altar. We both asked Our Blessed Mother for her guidance, strength and love. We share this faith and love with each other, an eternal bond between us like the circular rings we wear.

Thank you, Linda, for the magic, the friendship, the support, the hard work and faithful love after all these years. Always remember… I love you.

There are still ages to live and miles to go until the long day closes. Hand in hand we’ll walk our real life journey, together in the Light.

First published in the May 15, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio


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A Profile of Faith

In love and work, you often have to make a choice.

For best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, the choice was easy – create characters in his novels with many of his own faith-driven values.

The NotebookIn Sparks’s novel The Notebook (also a film from New Line Cinema), Allie has to choose which man to marry. Does she play it safe and follow through with her engagement to Lon, a wealthy, powerful lawyer? Or does she follow her heart and go back to Noah, with whom she shared a romantic summer?

These choices, says Sparks, are what life is all about.

“Everybody confronts these issues on a daily basis – what kind of person we want to be, the kind of life we want to lead, which values are more important to us,” says Sparks in a 2004 interview. “Sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes you make the wrong decision. In Allie’s case, she made the right one.”

Sparks has made many choices since he graduated with honors from Notre Dame in 1988. A business finance major who ran cross country and track (he helped set an Irish school record in the 4 x 800 relay), Sparks held a number of jobs before renewing his interest in writing novels. After selling The Notebook to Warner Books and feeling good about his work on Message in a Bottle, he chose writing as his fulltime profession.

But he still makes choices about his writing, especially what he won’t include in his novels.

“I don’t write about adultery or profanity. I don’t write gratuitous love scenes. If there is a love scene in the novel, it’s between adults. It’s not lust, it’s love based. There’s a sense that the couple will end up together in the long run anyway. They’re not perfect, but introduce me to the perfect Christians and I’ll write about them.”

The characters in his novels are usually Christians with strong faiths that play important roles in their lives. Sometimes that faith is front and center, such as in Jamie, the daughter of a Baptist minister in A Walk to Remember. In other works, the faith is reflected in the character’s values toward family, community and doing the right thing.

In The Notebook, Allie’s faith is reflected in trusting herself to make the right choice, despite the hurt it will cause another. She ultimately makes up her own mind, drawing upon her values to guide her decision.

This instinct, a strong belief on one’s own values, is similar to what Sparks uses to make decisions about his novels and his life.

Nicholas Sparks“I rely a lot on intuition, but my intuition is based very strongly on faith and morality. This all comes from being raised in a very value-driven household. I was born and raised Catholic, my wife is Catholic and our kids go to parochial school. I think about the values I’d like to instill in my kids, how I want my wife to view me as a person, how I want friends and other family to view me as a person. I’m very well read in the Bible, having read it about seven times from cover to cover.

“It’s the same thing as asking me how I write. You have a lifetime of experiences drawn from a number of areas and then the answer comes. Hopefully you have a deep well [of values and experiences]. If you have a shallow well, you have nothing.”

For example, Noah writes a love letter to Allie every day after their summer together. Similarly, Sparks wrote his future wife “about 150 letters” during the two months after meeting her during Spring Break. “You have to draw your characters from somewhere. You draw them from yourself, from people you know,” says Sparks.

The Notebook was originally inspired by the story of his wife’s grandparents. “They had a truly magical relationship, one that withstood the test of time and circumstance,” says Sparks. “But The Notebook is a novel, not a memoir of their lives. Above all, it is the story of everlasting, unconditional love. It is a story about a couple that loves each other through every challenge that life throws at them, from the beginning of their lives, through the middle of their lives, to the very end of their lives.”

Based upon his success with eight best-selling novels and some very popular movies, Sparks has made a number of good choices with his writing. Millions of readers would agree.

Originally published in the July 18, 2004 issue of Our Sunday Visitor.
Christopher Fenoglio

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