DIR: Gary Winick • WRI: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan • PRO: Ellen Barkin, Mark Canton, Eric Feig, Caroline Kaplan, Patrick Wachsburger • ED: Bill Pankow • DOP: Marco Pontecorvo • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal
The problem with gratuitously romantic films is that they often tend to alienate those audience members who have a lick of common sense! While there is nothing wrong with a film wearing its heart on its sleeve, it is quite something else to try to embrace an airy-fairy heroine with no sense of maturity whatsoever.
Sophie (Seyfried) is in her mid-20s, working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker magazine, living in Manhattan and engaged to gorgeous, passionate chef, Victor (Bernal). Victor is just weeks away from opening his own restaurant and is unfortunately rather busy in the run-up to his launch. When they go on holiday to Verona he drags her around beautiful vineyards and gourmet food tastings (very difficult to sympathise) and she moans and groans until they decide to do their own thing. Sophie visits Juliet Capulet’s house where women flock from all over the world to bring love letters which they leave on the wall outside. The plot thickens when Sophie meets the women who reply to the letters known as the Secretaries of Juliet. She soon joins in and becomes involved in a 50 year-old love story involving an elderly British lady (Redgrave) in search of her true love, much to the chagrin of her snooty grandson (Egan).
The plot is silly, but rather fun. The Tuscan countryside is incredibly beautiful which makes the film pleasant on the eye and the plot moves along at a good pace, never leaving the audience bored. However, it is very difficult to villainise the ‘unromantic’ fiancée who only seeks to live life with his feet on the ground. The term ‘true love’ is tossed around constantly but the fact is Sophie has no concept of working through problems or allowing her partner space during a stressful time. She has no time for his passion for food but gets in a strop when he doesn’t listen to her nonsense love stories.
This is a silly, fluffy film with a small amount of charm which comes in the form of the enchanting Amanda Seyfried. Her love interest (Christopher Egan) is thoroughly unlikeable and they certainly don’t have enough chemistry to suggest that she should give up her whole life to be with him. However, Vanessa Redgrave’s search for her long lost love proves infinitely more affecting, and this part of the story is sweet and seems to have more of a grown-up sensibility. Letters to Juliet will probably delight die-hard romantics but it is difficult not to be annoyed by its simplistic and downright naive view of what ‘true love’ really is?