Directed by Nick Cassavetes, starring James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Joan Allen and David Thornton.

Two of Nicholas Sparks' best selling novels - 'Message In A Bottle' and 'A Walk to Remember' - have already been adapted for the big screen. And now 'The Notebook' makes three in a row of slushy romances. It's not that the film is completely rubbish, and in fact there are some great performances, but it's good to know what you're getting yourself into before you arrive at the cinema. 

This being a sentimental kind of film, it goes straight for a cliché-ridden story. Set in North Carolina during the 1940s, Noah (Gosling) and Allie (McAdams) are lovers from the opposite sides of the tracks who meet at the town carnival, spend one magical summer together and are eventually separated by her parents (Allen and Thornton). It touches - barely - on the Second World War (Noah enlists, goes to war, loses friend, returns home) but not enough to give the film any kind of depth. You can figure out for yourself if the star- and class-crossed pair are ever to end up together.

There's also a parallel modern-day plotline with James Garner reading the story of Noah and Allie from a battered notebook to an elderly but oddly glamorous Alzheimer's sufferer (Rowlands).

Shot in gorgeous golden tones by Robert Fraisse, 'The Notebook' looks appropriately nostalgic but is very much a triumph of style over substance - the physical period details and clothing look fabulous but the characters' dialogue and actions just don't ring true. Ryan Gosling, who was stunning as a tortured Jewish neo-Nazi in 'The Believer', sleepwalks throughout but Rachel McAdams (also appearing in 'Mean Girls') is a true find, sparky, sassy and with a life force that far transcends this forgettable film. Sam Shephard pops up in a cameo role and the ever-wonderful Joan Allen makes Allie's ice-queen mother more sympathetic than expected while James Garner and Gena Rowlands, mother of director Cassavetes, do their best to tug the heartstrings as the elderly lovers in the framing narrative.

Although not as bad as it could have been, 'The Notebook' never manages to lift itself into the realm of the memorable. It's a classy looking weepie but is strictly for uncritical lovers of old-fashioned romance.

Caroline Hennessy