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‘The Noel Diary’ Ending Explained: Netflix’s Justin Hartley Christmas Movie Leaves Room for a Sequel

In many ways, The Noel Diary, which is now streaming on Netflix, is your typical Christmas-themed romantic comedy. But there are parts that will surprise audiences, particularly when it comes to The Noel Diary ending.

That’s in part thanks to director and co-writer Charles Shyer, a veteran of the rom-com genre who directed notable ’90s hits like Father of the Bride and The Parent Trap. Shyer knows these tropes inside and out. He knows when to play them up, and he knows when to turn them on their head. And he does both of those things in The Noel Diary, a charming tale that stars This Is Us‘s Justin Hartley as a dreamy, big-time author who returns to his hometown after the death of his mother.

For that reason, The Noel Diary ending might not be exactly what audiences are expecting. Netflix viewers are used to the streamer’s Christmas movies by now, and most come with a romantic resolution. But The Noel Diary handles the ending with a lighter touch that may leave audiences wanting more. Read on to learn more about The Noel Diary ending explained and what we know about a possible Noel Diary sequel.

What is The Noel Diary about?

The Noel Diary stars Justin Hartley as a best-selling novelist named Jake, who returns to his small hometown after he learns of the death of his estranged mother. While Jake is cleaning out his mother’s house, he meets a beautiful young woman named Rachel (played by Barrett Doss), who was adopted as a child and is searching for her birth mother. Rachel’s mother once worked for Jake’s family as a nanny, so she is hoping Jake can give her a lead. Though Jake doesn’t know anything himself, he agrees to drive with Rachel to visit Jake’s estranged father to gather more information.

Along the journey, Rachel discovers her mother’s old diary. It’s a treasure trove of information about her mom, whose name is Noel, and who worked as a nanny for Jake’s family when he was only four years old. Meanwhile, sparks are beginning to fly between Jake and Rachel. The only problem? Rachel is engaged to be married to some stick-in-the-mud named Andy.

The Noel Diary ending explained:

After Jake reconciles with his father, he and Rachel spend the night in a hotel room together, because, in the grand tradition of romantic comedy tropes, there was only one bed. The two drink, dance, and celebrate Rachel’s birthday, and end up sleeping together. But the next morning, Rachel feels she’s made a mistake by cheating on her fiance Alan. She slips out in the morning and leaves Jake a note, apologizing and telling him it won’t work out between the two of them. She also tells him she is going to give up on tracking down her mother, despite the fact that she now knows where her mom is. According to Rachel, the diary gave her everything she needed to know.

Jake decides to track down Rachel’s mother himself. He thanks Noel for what she did for his family, and tells her that her daughter Rachel is an amazing person. Then on Christmas Day, Jake goes for the big romantic gesture. He stands outside Rachel’s home and calls her on the phone, asking her to be with him. Rachel tells Jake to go away, and he responds that he will—if she can honestly say she doesn’t love him. After a moment, Rachel says, “I don’t love you,” and Jake leaves. Tough break!

But don’t worry, they don’t leave it at that. After the holidays, while Jake is preparing to finally leave his mother’s house, he happens to look up while getting in the car. Standing there, across the street in the snow, is Rachel. She smiles at him, and he smiles back. And with that, the movie ends.

While we don’t see them kiss, the implication is clearly that Rachel broke up with Alan (finally!) and is here to begin her life with Jake. According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Charles Shyer was adamant that the couple not kiss in the end.

“The ending was really tricky,” Shyer said. “The inspiration for that is Claude Lelouch movies, which I’m a major fan of. In fact, this is very much like a Lelouch ending because I didn’t want something that was just so on the nose. The producers kept saying that we needed to have them kiss at the end but I said no.”

Will there be a Noel Diary 2?

While there is no official word either way on a possible Noel Diary sequel, right now it doesn’t seem likely that The Noel Diary 2 is happening. Neither the cast nor the director Charles Shyer has indicated that they are thinking about a sequel movie. And the book that the movie is based on, The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans, is a standalone story without a sequel, though it is part of a series of unrelated Christmas-themed tales called The Noel Collection.

That said, never say never. Netflix has made sequels to its Christmas hits in the past, including The Princess Switch franchise, so if The Noel Diary continues to do well for Netflix, it’s possible the streamer may want to continue the story. And there’s plenty of more story to tell. Rachel never got to reunite with her mom, and, of course, we never got to see the couple kiss at the end.

While Shyer didn’t exactly indicate that The Noel Diary 2 is his ideal next project, the director did state frankly in a candid interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he intends to keep working as long as he can, and that he’s much less picky about projects these days. “I just have a lot of energy. I want to keep going. I actually love the process and I love the camaraderie,” he said. “I love what I do. If I drop dead, maybe it will be holding a camera.”

Where was The Noel Diary filmed?

The Noel Diary takes place in Connecticut, across various small towns including Bridgeport, Cornwall Bridge, and Ridgefield. There was no Hollywood trickery at play here—The Noel Diary was filmed on location in various spots in Connecticut. Some real-life locations include RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT; the Griswold Inn in Essex, CT; and the town hall in New Canaan.

While it may look snowy and cold on screen, The Noel Diary was actually filmed in the middle of summer. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Charles Shyer explained how it happened, saying, “We started out in Vancouver, we had location scouted, hired crew and everything, but then COVID-19 hit. We got booted out of Canada and had to move to Connecticut in the middle of summer when it was 90 degrees. Making a Christmas movie under those conditions was really a challenge.”