Letters to Juliet Directed by Gary Winick Starring Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Chris Egan, Gael García Bernal, Franco Nero Written by José Rivera, Tim Sullivan based on the book by […]
Directed by Gary Winick
Starring Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Chris Egan, Gael García Bernal, Franco Nero
Written by José Rivera, Tim Sullivan based on the book by Suzzane Harper
Juliet’s Wall has been a place for forlorn lovers since the 1930’s. People (over 3/4’s women) have written letters to Juliet, explaining their situation, and, inexplicably, asking for advice. The best thing about this situation is that someone collects, reads and responds to these letters. The Club di Giulietta are a group of local volunteers, financed by the city of Verona. They open their hearts, give advice and give consolation to the lovelorn around the world. It’s the closest thing to philanthropy I can imagine, as do not know what they could ever get in return.
Sophie is a woman on the verge of happiness. Newly engaged , employed as a fact checker, and dreaming of being a writer, she and her fiancé Victor (Bernal) go on a “pre-honeymoon.” For Sophie, it begins as a trip they can take together. Victor has other ideas,
though, and before long, it has turned into a search for suppliers to his soon to open restaurant. In less than one day, they have split apart. Not long after this, Sophie happens upon the Juliet Wall. Fascinated with what she discovers, she is soon enlisted to translate and respond. The first letter she opens, behind a rock in the wall, is one written in 1957 by Claire (Redgrave).
After responding to the letter, she soon meets Claire and her grandson, Charlie (Egan). Charlie is irritated because Sophie’s response to his Grandmother’s letter urged her to travel from London to Italy in search of her long-lost love, Lorenzo Bartolini. This dispute is one of many faux crisises that ensue between Charlie and Sophie. Claire’s quite beautiful story unfolds in their shared search for Lorenzo. The moments here are cute but not too cute. Vanessa Redgrave’s honed acting skill prevents the pursuits from becoming schmaltzy.
Seyfried, with her wide-eyed innocence, makes a perfect understudy to a romantic like Claire, she begins to write a book about the experience. Along the way, of course, she falls for Charlie, realizes that her engagement is doomed, and neither she nor Charlie should look love in the face and flinch.
One can appreciate the decision facing Sophie. Abandoned by her mother as a child, she is potentially heading into a lifetime with a nice guy who is ultimately neglectful. Their marriage would be one of sacrifice for her, one of convenience for him. Once she writes her story and it is to be published, Victor still has not taken the time out of his busy schedule even to read it. It’s not that he is mean to her, he just has other things to do.
Charlie’s story is the toughest one to define, and, ultimately, by the end, he still really just seems to be along for the ride. This is a woman’s romance, after all.
Claire’s story is the one most in need of expanding upon, though. Vanessa Redgrave is postively the radiant life of the film here, and she takes what could be a cheese ball role and breathes life into it. It’s not that she regrets her life, just the decision not to meet Lorenzo in 1957. Watching the fragile expressions on her face, one feels the true weight of 53 years removed from a decision to stay, or, ultimately, go.
Several lifetimes come and go in the space of 53 years, and if you blink, sometimes you miss it. Claire loved her husband, who
was now gone, and she had also lost a son along the way. She is not pensive either. She wants her grandson to have what she denied herself. The complexity of feelings is somewhat muted by Claire’s self-assurance that what she does now is what she should be doing.
Having Seyfried opposite from Redgrave is somewhat unfair, given the difference in their acting skill and talent. It would have taken someone like Cate Blanchett or Kate Winslet to make this more even. Even so, it is a fun movie, with much going for it, including beautiful scenery, a brisk pace, competent acting and wonderfully moral characters. There is a montage at the beginning of the film that shows many famous works of art in love: kissing art, if you will. It is a perfect start to what becomes a love poem to love itself. Not perfect, but love always forgives imperfection.
(***1/2 out of *****)