July 23rd, 2021
MOVIE: THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER
STARRING: SHAILENE WOODLEY, FELICITY JONES, JOE ALWYN, CALLUM TURNER
DIRECTED BY: AUGUSTINE FRIZZELL
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Some might say that romance is dead, but it’s nice to see movies still trying, fighting to keep love alive. The Last Letter From Your Lover could have fallen into the lame trap of romantic movies in the Nicholas Sparks collection or it could have fit the bill of an even more pathetic Lifetime style of romance. It helps when the cast of characters falling in love are a charming collection of actors; All admirably portraying the trials and tribulations of people falling in love and how life gets in the way. Augustine Frizzell’s direction sits between an old fashioned approach and an emotional tearjerker, telling a story of two lovers in the past, and their relationship being discovered through a collection of letters in the present. The Last Letter From your Lover hits the right notes if you’re in the mood for passionate romance.
The narratives jump back and forth in time. We first meet Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley) and her husband Laurence (Joe Alwyn) in 1968. They are a wealthy couple, living in London, where Laurence works for the government, while Jennifer enjoy’s the quaint conversations at fancy dinners. While vacationing, a newspaper reporter named Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) is set to do a full piece on Laurence and his work, but in that busy schedule, it leaves Anthony and Jennifer alone for late night conversations, gentle glances, and a connection that can be described only as magnetic. It doesn’t help that Laurence has a dense personality, but there’s also a beautiful connection between Jennifer and Anthony, where the more time they spend with one another, the closer they inch to escaping away from an already dying marriage.
The other half of the story is set in the present, where we meet Ellie (Felicity Jones), a reporter for the London Chronicle, doing research in archives, and witness her meet-cute with the shy Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). During their research, the two of them accidentally find an old letter from Anthony to Jennifer. It states that he wants her to run away to New York with him, but that never happens, and what follows is the discovery of more letters, and then a back and forth narrative, about what stopped this love, and how this story of lost romance inspires Ellie to change her ways.
Off the top of the bat, The Last Letter From Your Lover mainly succeeds because the two couples express incredible charm. Woodley’s performance is reserved, playing a woman that has wrongfully succumbed to the status quo of a safe love, replacing passion for practicality. Alwyn’s performance is the lone misfire here, where his Laurence character is so non-existent it should not be a surprise that his wife strays away. It also does not help that Anthony is played by the ever charming Callum Turner, an actor that effortlessly portrays tall, dark, handsome, never playing the role too cool or ashamed to be romantic. Mixed in between these fine performances is direction from Frizzell, which gracefully installs readings of the various letters between stories, revealing the passionate words expressed, which gives off an authentic aura of true love.
The screenplay from Nick Payne and Esta Spalding is also well balanced, adapting the novel from Jojo Moyes, and finding a happy middle between the heartbreaking love in the past and the timid, often jaded approach to romance by Ellie. Felicity Jones is always good and here her portrayal is what I like to call business casual charm. She does not overextend what is needed and plays the perfect everyday person, conflicted about finding love in the digital world today, but growing as she follows along in these letters. Her connection with Nabhaan Rizwan is a delight. Never cheesy, a sweet stroke of humor, and a romance we can root for. Without the perfect balance of the cast in The Last Letter From Your Lover, the majority of things would never work.
Thankfully it all does come through, with a great chemistry between all four leads, surrounded by gorgeous European countryside, great 60’s costumes- seriously, Shailene Woodley wears some great hats- and a heartbreaking romance that will have you believe that a great love can never die. It’s not mushy, it’s just an honest portrayal, where two lovers are derailed in their pursuit of one another, and it’s brought back in the discovery of a love letter. A good romantic movie can warm the heart and The Last Letter From Your Lover will keep the fire going.
THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER PREMIERES ON NETFLIX FRIDAY JULY 23RD
Written by: Leo Brady