Thursday 9 June 2011

Movie Review: Letters To Juliet (2010)

The attractive young American in a foreign land, having doubts about her fiancĂ©e. The handsome young Englishman. The romance that starts off on the wrong foot. The wise old woman who nudges the burgeoning attraction between the awkward couple. The eternal search for true love, lost 50 years ago and now about to be regained. And gorgeous, sun-drenched Italian scenery.

Letters To Juliet is a sweet, old-fashioned romance that ticks all the right boxes, achieving exactly what is sets out to do. It mercifully avoids the more modern tendencies for unnecessary vulgarity and cattiness. It also, most thankfully, steers clear of the excruciating self-help, looking-for-myself-because-I-deserve-it nonsense that dominated the intolerable Eat Pray Love (2010).

New York couple Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and her fiancee Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) set off on a trip to Verona, the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, presumably to enjoy a pre-wedding honeymoon. But Victor is too easily distracted networking with local food suppliers for his soon-to-open restaurant, and is quick to ignore his future bride. Left on her own, Sophie, an aspiring writer, sets out to discover the city, and stumbles upon a group of local women who collect and answer letters written by desperate lovers and left in the cracks in the wall below "Juliet's" balcony.

Sophie finds a 50 year old letter embedded in the wall, written by Claire, an Englishwoman who abandoned her Italian lover Lorenzo when they were both young and confused. Thanks to the response written by Sophie, the now elderly but sprightly Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) shows up in Verona with her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan), determined to find and reunite with her Lorenzo after all these years. Sophie joins them on a road trip to find the right Lorenzo (Franco Nero), setting the stage for a romance to blossom between Sophie and Charlie as they drive across the Italian countryside.

That Letters To Juliet heads with unwavering commitment towards a happy ending is part of its charm, with the three leads playing their part towards romantic bliss. Seyfried and Egan need to do little except look radiant in the Italian sun, while Redgrave effortlessly pulls off the dual responsibility of seeking her true love while sagely guiding the young lovers-to-be towards their destiny.

Director Gary Winick, who tragically died in 2011 before his 50th birthday, keeps the mood lighthearted without veering into comedy, and allows the breeze of romance to seep into every frame. Letters To Juliet has no surprises, no disappointments, and enough pleasant moments to reinforce the positive energy of the well-intentioned pursuit of love.

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