‘The Noel Diary,’ filmed and set in CT premieres on Netflix Nov. 24

More than a year after wrapping filming in Connecticut, “The Noel Diary'' is finally set to hit Netflix on Nov. 24. The movie tells the story of a best-selling romance novelist (Justin Hartley) who returns to his hometown of Bridgeport, Conn. to clean out his mother's estate. While there, he finds a diary that sends him on a collision course with someone from his past (Barrett Doss). What follows is a story that chronicles two characters each searching for belonging and reconciliation with their past. 

Along the way, eagle-eyed Connecticut watchers will be able to spot local places like Madison’s RJ Julia Booksellers, which is where character Rachel Campbell buys her first book written by the protagonist, Jacob Turner; Essex’s Griswold Inn, which is turned into the rustic Maple Falls Inn; New Canaan’s town hall, which serves as the downtown area of Maple Falls and Remo’s in Stamford, which is where Rachel and Jacob go on one of their first dates. Jacob's book signing in Chicago at the beginning of the movie is filmed at the Mechanics & Farmers Savings Bank in Bridgeport, while the scenes involving Jacob's mother's house, which is set in Bridgeport, are filmed in nearby Westport. 

“We hit Connecticut in the middle of summer and there was a huge heat wave, and we’re shooting this Christmas movie with snow,” director Charles Shyer (“Father of the Bride,” “The Parent Trap”) said. “I thought the experience was lovely. The people were great. The food was great.” 

Set decorators transform the New Canaan Town Hall property into a Christmas scene for the filming of the Netflix movie The Noel Diary in New Canaan, Conn. on Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Set decorators transform the New Canaan Town Hall property into a Christmas scene for the filming of the Netflix movie The Noel Diary in New Canaan, Conn. on Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

Shyer described the experience of hauling to Connecticut as "fortuitous and expensive" given that the production was first shut down in Vancouver. However, Connecticut was chosen as the background to tell this story because of its hometown feel and the fact that it was ”financially good for Netflix.”

“I think the neighborhoods and the feeling of family really worked for this movie,” Shyer added.

If you’re watching other romantic comedies during the holidays, the story probably goes a little something like this: A small town woman meets an engaged business executive who finds himself begrudgingly going to his hometown. Through the power of some holiday magic, the man slowly falls in love with the woman, and then changes his mind to be with her. 

This tried and true format has spawned a number of hits for the likes of Hallmark and Lifetime. However, “The Noel Diary” plays with that successful formula by removing “hokey” elements like confining the story to one small town and focusing on romance, and replacing them with topics like forgiveness, redemption and parenting issues.

(L to R) Barrett Doss as Rachel, Justin Hartley as Jake in The Noel Diary.

(L to R) Barrett Doss as Rachel, Justin Hartley as Jake in The Noel Diary.

KC Bailey/Netflix

While romantic comedy elements are still prevalent in “The Noel Diary,” Shyer said that he wanted to tell a more grounded story that is not reliant on its Christmas background.

“I always wanted to do a Christmas movie but they were always so hokey, and they’re all so corny,” said Shyer. “I felt this story kind of could exist without Christmas. I could take Christmas out of this movie, and it could still work.”

The movie is based on the works of author Richard Paul Evans, whose other books have been made into movies like the Emmy award-winning “The Christmas Box” and “A Perfect Day.” Given the source material, Shyer said the challenge of making an adaptation is making someone else’s vision mold into something that you’re comfortable in creating. 

RJ Julia Booksellers is transformed into a movie set. The store is featured in the film adaptation of The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans. 

RJ Julia Booksellers is transformed into a movie set. The store is featured in the film adaptation of The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans. 

Sarah Page Kyrcz

“I think the challenge is not to be bound by the novel. You can’t be restricted by the narrative of the prose,” Shyer said regarding adapting the works. “I’m going to make something that is comfortable for me.”

This project is also one of Shyer’s first in a number of years. “I just didn’t ever find anything that I loved or really wanted to do. I realized, ‘You’re not getting any younger, dude. You better start making movies again,’” Shyer said.

Outside of cinematography, Shyer also contributed to the soundtrack of the movie, helping pen the song “Christmas in Connecticut with You,” which is sung by Grammy award-winning singer Steve Tyrell. The song name drops locations like Power Ridge, New Haven’s Fantasy of Lights and Mohawk Mountain.