At a modern-day nursing home, an elderly man, Duke, reads a romantic story from his notebook to a fellow patient.
In 1940, Seabrook Island, South Carolina, poor lumbermill worker Noah Calhoun sees 17-year-old heiress Allison "Allie" Hamilton at a carnival, pursues her, and they have a summer romance. After weeks of dating, Noah takes Allie to an abandoned house that he intends to buy for them. They try to have sex for the first time, but are interrupted by Noah's friend Fin with the news that Allie's parents have the police looking for her. Due to their difference in social class, Allie's parents were never fond of Noah, and were betting against the relationship from the beginning.
When Allie and Noah returned to her parents' mansion, Allie's mother Anne ruthlessly insulted Noah solely due to his social status and banned her from seeing him. Noah walks out and Allie chases after him; an argument ensues, leading Allie to break up with Noah in the heat of the moment. The next morning, Anne announces that the family is returning home to Charleston that same day. Allie attempts to contact Noah, but is unable to find him, so she asks Fin to tell Noah that she loves him. When Noah receives the message he rushes to Allie's home, only to find the house gated up and empty.