Movie Review: “Letters to Juliet”
‘Juliet’ is simply lovely. It has all the romantic elements of a true love story that endures through time.
Amanda Seyfried, fresh off her lead role in “Dear John,” is ever-effervescent with the girl-next door look. A fact-checker with the New Yorker and an aspiring writer, Sophie travels to Verona, the city of love, with her self-absorbed fiancé, Victor (Gael Bernal Garcia) on a “pre-honeymoon”/business trip where he’s there to meet with suppliers for his new restaurant. Watching the interactions between the two, I had a hard time imagining what made them a couple in the first place. They have nothing in common and live on a separate page.
While sightseeing, Sophie arrives at Juliet’s courtyard (a real tourist attraction) where women (and men) leave love letters. The “secretaries of Juliet” open the letters and answer them on behalf of ‘Juliet.’ Curiosity gets the better of Sophie when she stumbles upon an old letter hidden in one of the wall crevices. She joins the ladies and feels compelled to answer the letter. She ends up meeting the woman who wrote it… 50 years ago, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Claire was torn after leaving her first love, Lorenzo, behind and going back home to London to be married to another in order to avoid the disapproval of her parents.
The letter arrives at Claire’s family home. Upon reading a thought-provoking response, with her grandson Charlie in tow, Claire rushes to Verona on a quest to find her Lorenzo. And so the adventure of love begins. Even after the location parameter is established, there are dozens of men bearing the name Lorenzo Bartolini that make an appearance. There are some humorous scenes where the men seem to be quite taken by Claire’s charm and warmth.
The lush landscape of the Italian wine country bathing in sunlight is a natural canvas for a romance. It reminds me of another movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” starring Diane Lane.
After an encounter with a tombstone of Lorenzo, hope is fading fast. Maybe this is crazy after all. Could this be her Lorenzo? And if not, what if he didn’t remember Claire? What if he’s gravely ill? Or what about a wife who might possibly fly off the handle? What if…
After an emotional blowout between Sophie and Charlie in that graveyard, the trio are turning around to leave when Claire spots a young boy working in the farm. He has a connection to the princely owner of the vineyard, Lorenzo Bartolini (Franco Nero, Redgrave’s real-life husband), her long-lost love.
A seemingly chance encounter leads to the reunion of the century. Can fate be evaded? Can destiny be denied? Can soulmates reunite against all odds? The eyes, whom some say are windows to the soul, reveal the genuine connection and depth of emotions. It will warm your heart and make you believe that when something is meant to be, it will be, at the time that is deemed “right.” And interestingly, in real life, Redgrave and Nero had on and off relationships for many years before they were finally married several years ago.
In the meantime, friendship grows between Sophie and Charlie. Initially “hating” each other, something is blossoming during this road trip. They both connect through sincere interest and appreciation for one another. While the chemistry doesn’t hold a candle to the older couple, it’s cute enough.
This is one of those stories that, while predictable, is a journey worth traveling. And the destination is a beautiful ending.