Guest Author - Karen L Hardison
In Letters to Juliet, Amanda Seyfried scores another high profile romantic drama starring alongside Vanessa Redgrave (Evening, 2007), with Chris Egan and Franco Nero as the (very) romantic heroes and Gael Garcia Bernal as the misguided fiancé. Amanda Seyfried is getting a lot of mileage from her hit role as Sophie in Mama Mia! (2008) with Meryl Streep, but one wonders if the mileage can continue to expand based on her looks, charm, and charisma alone. It could be said of Seyfried, as was true of Brad Pitt's early acting days, that her voice and her acting skills need improving to guarantee longevity on the silver screen, recalling that Pitt enrolled in acting classes after his early successes in order to continue to capitalize on his audience appeal.
The story of Letters to Juliet is a charming twist on romance that will ring true for many people, young and old, who have been taken away by various circumstances from an early love. Seyfried, playing an American fact-checker and aspiring writer named (again) Sophie, is engaged to a chef and restaurant owner named Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal). They visit Verona, Italy, and Sophie discovers a wall where women from all over the world leave letters of broken love and broken hearts at the feet of the world's most famous young lover, Juliet Capulet, immortalized by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. Then Sophie learns that "Juliet's Secretaries" collect the letters, read, and answer each one.
One day Sophie dislodges a stone from the wall and finds a letter written in 1957 by Claire, an Englishwoman who left behind her new love, Lorenzo (Franco Nero), to return home to her fiancé and her life in England. The remainder of the movie follows Claire’s quest for Lorenzo, which occurs as a result of Sophie's reply to her old letter, while her grandson Charlie (Chris Egan) comes along because he is “genuinely worried” about his grandmother. While he is watching over his grandmother, he falls for love in his own right. The conflict endured by Claire and Lorenzo fifty years earlier is being repeated by Charlie and Sophie as they search for Lorenzo together with Claire.
In a romance, it is usually a foregone conclusion that the guy will get the girl (unless the hero is played by Kevin Costner (Message in a Bottle, 1999, and The Guardian, 2006)), so an unknown ending to the film isn't what draws an audience to a romantic drama film. The draw is the story of the quest for love, the personalities and lives of the characters, and the lessons they learn and the changes to their understanding of life that unfold, which hopefully leads the audience to a greater understanding of life and love as well. [One hopes everyone sees the logical fallacy behind the idea expressed as, “You're supposed to want to be together all the time.”]
A charming and heart touching film for anyone who has grappled with or is grappling with or expects to grapple with love and how heart and mind can work together instead of against each other. I recommend Letters to Juliet especially since the immortal Vanessa Redgrave gives the embodiment of reality and warmth to the role of Claire.
Letters to Juliet is based on a true story about the letters left in Verona to Juliet at what is believed to be part of Juliet Capulet's wall and the "secretaries" who answer these letters of love, a story told by Lise Friedman and Ceil Friedman in Letters to Juliet: Celebrating Shakespeare's Greatest Heroine, the Magical City of Verona, and the Power of Love.
Letters to Juliet (2010)
Gary Winick – Director
Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan – Screenplay Writers
Amanda Seyfried – Sophie
Vanessa Redgrave – Claire
Franco Nero - Lorenzo
Chris Egan – Charlie
Gael Garcia Bernal - Victor
[Reviewer viewed Letters to Juliet at her own expense.]