The Notebook hasn’t graced Netflix in the U.S. yet — we have to wait until March 1 to stream Nicholas Sparks’s classic romance movie — but U.K. subscribers have already been settling in for a good, deep cry as they watch Ryan Gosling spend decades pining over Rachel McAdams.
There’s only one problem: Fans who make it to the end are not getting the sob-inducing final scene they built themselves up for. [SPOILER ALERT] Rather than seeing Noah and Allie die in each other’s arms in a nursing home bed, the scene cuts to an image of birds flying over a lake just before the couple would take their final breath in the original cut.
Many viewers did not take this edit lightly, taking to Twitter to express their dismay and flat-out anger over the unexpected and unwanted twist. “Its shocking....! Give us back our gut wrenching tears!!!!!!!” one user tweeted.
Things got so heated online that Netflix UK & Ireland’s official account tweeted a response to the uproar, claiming they didn’t edit the footage and they are “getting to the bottom of it asap.”
It all sounds very serious, like someone somewhere along the line really messed things up for Netflix, The Notebook, and fans everywhere. But… what if… it wasn’t a mistake? Perhaps those licensing and delivery procedures that have worked for Netflix countless times are still fully functional, and Netflix has plans that are still unknown to us.
As some fans have pointed out on Twitter, the Netflix ending more closely aligns with the way the book ends — still with Noah and Allie living in a nursing home nearing the end of their lives and still with Allie battling dementia and struggling to remember their love story, but with ascension toward a different kind of heaven.
“For at that moment, the world is full of wonder as I feel her fingers reach for the buttons on my shirt and slowly, ever so slowly, she begins to undo them one by one.”
That’s right, Sparks didn’t let Noah and Allie die at the end of his novel, which was very convenient when writing his follow-up book, The Wedding, about Noah and Allie’s son-in-law, Wilson, who is struggling to reignite the love in his marriage — because Noah has a role in that novel as well.
Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling at the 2005 MTV Movie Awards
Netflix’s adjusted ending opens up the possibility for the story to continue on screen as it was written on the page, allowing us to return to the world that first captivated us in theaters 15 years ago.
Or as one Twitter user more succinctly put it, “The alternate ending of The Notebook is more similar to that of the ACTUAL book, and there’s a sequel so it’s def prepping us for the sequel.”
So, did Netflix intentionally stream this alternate ending to secretly prime us all for their upcoming on-screen interpretation of The Wedding?
Well, as luck (or good PR strategy) would have it, Sparks appeared on the Today show on Wednesday (February 27) for totally unrelated reasons. He was, naturally, still asked about the controversy, and, slightly less naturally, avoided giving direct answers on Netflix’s move.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams at the 2004 premiere of The Notebook
The author did say he “didn’t know it was coming,” but stopped himself from wondering why they would do that by saying that different viewers will have different opinions on their preferred ending. He notably didn’t answer whether he received an explanation from Netflix on the change, calling it “above my paygrade.”
You know what’s not above his paygrade, though? Selling the rights of his novel so that it would be turned into a movie — which is something Sparks had previously said he might consider doing in a Q&A section on his website.
In that Q&A, he also revealed how they might handle Noah’s death in the movie version of The Notebook in order to continue his story in The Wedding. He offered a few options — altering the timeline, deleting Noah’s character — but his preferred option, he revealed, would be to make it so that Noah never died.
That makes Netflix’s altered ending feel pretty convenient.
Then there’s also the fact that Sparks tweeted “It’ll never be over…” alongside a clip of the most iconic scene from the movie, Noah and Allie kissing in the rain. Was he saying it’ll never be over because there’s more Notebook content on the way?
It’s not like fans haven’t been wanting more from the love story ever since that fateful final scene. The CW tried to turn it into a TV series back in 2014, and in January of this year, it was announced that the film will become a Broadway musical. And Netflix does like to take something that previously worked and give fans more content in a similar vein. (See: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, Arrested Development, Fuller House.)
Of course, maybe this is all just wishful thinking. Maybe Netflix’s alternate ending was an honest to goodness mistake made during the asset transfer of one of the most massively beloved movies from our lifetime. After all, “apparently some films have more than one ending?!”