The Note (2007)

We came across this movie on a list purportedly ranking the best Hallmark Christmas movies. We'd actually just seen one from that list we liked, which is absurdly rare for this studio, so had high hopes for this one, which was ranked at #4. Maybe we'd been too hard on Hallmark this whole time. Perhaps we simply saw a handful of bad films and foolishly dismissed them prematurely, we thought. Then we watched The Note, and... nope. Never mind.

Okay, let me walk that back a bit. First, I have actually seen good movies - plural - produced for Hallmark's various channels. I do suspect I've been too quick to group these together: good or bad, I'm discovering they occupy a wide variety of genres and styles. And I remain optimistic that I'm going to see more good - or even great - films with Hallmark's branding.

But it's not this one. That's not to say The Note is awful. It's fine for what it is, but we're talking 2007 TV drama quality. Not even TV movie: this basically plays out like a mediocre episode of a mediocre television drama from the era, only with worse music. If you really enjoy drama, this might scratch that itch.

And, despite everything I just said, I really enjoyed watching this. It's just... I didn't enjoy it as a drama. I enjoyed it as a comedy. In particular, there's a moment towards the end where I almost fell off the couch laughing. The problem is the moment in question isn't supposed to be funny: it's the dramatic climax of the film. It's also a twist, so - if you really care (and, for the record, I don't think you should) - be aware I'm going to spoil the unintentionally hilarious ending.

Let's start with the premise. The movie's main character is Peyton, a middle-aged reporter trying to salvage her failing advice column. There's a guy at her job with a mutual crush on her, so the movie can add a standard romance plot to the background, but - despite hanging around the entire time - he's not actually all that relevant to the plot. 

A few weeks before Christmas, an offshore plane crash occurs right near their town, killing everyone on board. While walking near the beach, Peyton sees a group of grieving family members who are harassed by Truman, a famous TV reporter who becomes the movie's antagonist. She almost speaks to a teenage girl, but Truman interrupts. We'll... come back to that teenager.

Later, while walking near the same spot, Peyton finds a note inside a sealed plastic bag alongside a piece of a lifejacket she's able to confirm was from the plane. The note is only a single sentence long, addressed simply to "T", and signed "Dad." The movie withholds the exact content of the note until the ending, as Peyton opts to conceal it from her readers until she's able to locate the intended recipient. She structures the whole thing as a mystery set over multiple columns, which are massively successful, netting her hundreds of emails (don't ask).

She identifies three likely candidates (i.e.: people with names starting with the letter "T" whose fathers died on the flight) and tracks them down, showing them the note one by one. The message touches the first two, but they're able to verify it wasn't intended for them. The third claims it was intended for him, but he has a financial interest, as it would prop up his lawsuit attempting to gain a share of his father's estate. This also ties into Truman stealing the story and setting up a live interview a day before Peyton's last column on the subject is scheduled to go to print.

Throughout the movie, we're provided with fragments of Peyton's backstory in the form of awkwardly edited scenes where she finds out her husband died in a car crash sixteen years earlier, the reveal she was pregnant, that she attempted to kill herself while pregnant but survived, then finally the reveal that the baby survived as well and was put up for adoption.

Eventually the teenager from the beginning finds Peyton and tells her she believes the note was intended for her, which is a tad confusing as she wouldn't have had any information up to that point pointing to that conclusion. At first Peyton assumes she's wrong, but the girl asks if it was addressed to "T", a nickname her father gave her.

The content of the note, incidentally, turns out to be, "All is forgiven," referencing an argument they had over... wait for it... the sixteen-year-old kid's desire to track down her birth parents.

So, yeah, this is the part where I started laughing uncontrollably.

At any rate, everything works out. The liar admits live on the air the note wasn't intended for him (embarrassing Truman), Peyton and her crush agree to start a relationship, and Peyton feels a sense of closure about a part of her life she felt ashamed of. At the very end, she has the teenager over for Christmas and is about to reveal that she's the kid's birth mother.

Thematically, this is pretty clearly a religious allegory, and not a particularly complicated one. I suppose some credit is due for more or less summarizing the New Testament in three words, but it's still cheesy as hell. Also... is the "T" thing a reference to the cross? I mean, it would make sense as lowercase, but... that's why it's a "T", right? Eh. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Regardless, the theology here is, of course, bad. While The Note is certainly less cloying than, say, The Christmas Shoes, it's built around a similar idea: that the answer to the problem of evil in the world is God's plan, and that somehow structured interconnectivity serves as justification for incredible suffering and hardship. The idea we should find comfort in the notion that God would allow a planeload of people to die in order to give us hope via a relatively minor miracle strikes me as offensive. Those aren't the actions of a loving God; they're the actions of a sadist mocking His prey. Which, I mean, if that's what you believe in, no judgment, but if you're trying to imply the effects justify these causes, I'm not convinced.

I should note that the book this was based on wasn't actually set at Christmas, but Hallmark knows where the money is (apparently this was a huge ratings hit when it aired). There's really no reason it should be moved to the holidays, aside from vague associations between December and Jesus. Easter would make more sense, but I suppose no one considers Easter movies "must see TV" (we certainly don't).

Like I said at the top, this isn't exactly a bad movie. The cast is fine, if unremarkable, and - aside from the hilarious bit - it's competently written. The production is a long way from feature quality, but it's passable for TV, at least for its decade. The soundtrack is the one area where it really reveals its budget limitations: the music is underwhelming and - frankly - cheap. It sounds like they hired a pianist to throw something together over a couple days. But, honestly, I'm not sure it matters all that much. If you're a fan of this stuff, you'll probably forgive an underwhelming soundtrack, and if not... well...

At least there's that ridiculously self-important twist.


  1. WHY would you even bother to attempt to pass this off as a "review" of a film, when clearly it's simply a vehicle by which to insult God and all who believe in him, be they Christians or other faiths? If you had even a minuscule notion of how religion works, you would know that God doesn't "allow" bad things to happen to multitudes of people. Bad things happen to good people. There is no blame nor mystery behind it. This "review" is arrogant, ignorant, and insultingly biased. If you don't like it, don't believe in God and aren't a Christian, what gives you the expertise to review a Christian film. Abso-freaking-lutely NOTHING. You're simply sticking your judgmental nose where it does not belong, solely to be a pretentious, pompous jerk.

    1. What's funny is I wrote this last year, long after I mellowed. Dig through the archives, and you'll find some stuff that will REALLY offend you.

      I really do hope you dig through the archives...


Post a Comment