Picture this: in the present, a young journalist discovers a series of love letters. They were written between a married woman and her paramour in the 1960s, and they tell of a passionate but star crossed affair. Naturally, the journalist searches for more of the letters and, eventually, finds love of her own.
This is the plot of The Last Letter From Your Lover. It isn’t entirely original, but it is a pretty good version of this kind of story.
There is, of course, drama. Every story like this needs conflict in the earlier love affair. In this case, Shailene Woodley’s Jennifer is trapped in a loveless and controlling marriage, and from the first scenes, it’s clear she also has amnesia. This is actually an interesting effect for the narrative: as she is discovering her own story simultaneously with Felicity Jones’s Ellie in the present day, and we are in the real world.
So what makes a film like this? First, the detail in the past story needs to be excellent, and it really is. The swinging, upper class sixties are on full display here with all the big hair and groovy fashions that you’d expect. There is also some stunning photography on display, director Augustine Frizzell and cinematographer George Steel capture the time and the locations pretty spectacularly at times.
With a romance like this you also need a cast to love though, and The Last Letter From Your Lover is pretty ok in the respect. Felicity Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan are find as the odd couple in the present, and Woodley and Callum Turner are believable as the ill fated lovers of the past.
Interestingly, while she is a talented actress and really putting her all in with the role here, Woodley ends up feeling a little out of place. I’m not sure if it’s simply her American English among a sea of soothing British accents or if she feels perhaps a little anachronistic, but it occasionally was off-putting.
Ultimately the biggest problem that a film like this will face is that you probably already know how the plot will resolve. Sure, the details won’t be exactly the same as the stories you’ve seen before, but there’s only so many ways the “passionate but doomed romance in the past being discovered in the present” plot can resolve.
What I can say is that if this is your kind of movie, then you are very much going to enjoy it. If it isn’t your kind of movie, well, you probably knew that before you read this review, didn’t you? Still, at the end of the day, sometimes we need a feel-good movie with an ending that affirms love, and this is a pretty good one of those.
The Last Letter From Your Lover premieres on Netflix this Friday, July 23rd.
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