The Notebook (Le Grand Cahier), not to be confused with Ryan Gosling's movie, is a rendition of the affects of WWII in a remote Hungarian town told through the eyes of 13-year-old twin boys (Laszlo Gyemant and Andras Gyemant).
As an overall feeling I thought the movie was OK. I won't be telling anyone to watch this movie if you're a fan of other movies in this genre like Lore which definitely had a harder more direct style. I found this movie very reminiscent of Wes Anderson. For instance when the boys' mother dies. She is blown up in a cartoonish style that happens off screen. In fact all of the explosions happen this way (and there are a lot).
The movie was very over the top with a contrived plot. The boys are shipped off to their grandmother's house, who they have never met, upon arrival they are abused (rather lightly if you ask me) and forced to do chores for food. (Sn: I've done chores all my life not necessarily for food, but they were definitely expected of me, so this "abuse" seems tame. If we're going to do it (put child abuse in a story) then I think we should actually DO IT.) The boys do however up the ante on the abuse by abusing themselves. They whip, punch, and starve themselves all in an effort to prepare for the adversities of war, which is unnecessary and ineffectual.
The movie does have some stylistic points that are worth mentioning. We begin our journey with the understanding that certain characters are good and others are bad. For instance, the mother, the father, the Germans (both officers and civilians) are good and the grandmother, the Jews and the neighbor girl with the cleft palate are bad. But as the story concludes it is clear all the characters have evolved. For example the grandmother, who they called “the witch” becomes a mother to them in the wake of their real mother’s absence. She loves them in her own way and eventually tells them where the families treasure is buried and actually calls them something other than “bastards” on her impending death bed.
I don’t think there is a real way to improve this movie because it is based on the book written by Agota Kristof.
Oh, I should also mention that the theme of “the notebook” has absolutely no importance to the movie. The boys are told by their father to write down everything that they do and to keep up their lessons but once the boys are reunited with their father he doesn’t even so much as mention the book. It literally serves no purpose in the movie and seems like a forgotten plot.