The Last Letter from Your Lover is a romance that passes the eye test but is saddled with a script that doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well.
This review of the Netflix film The Last Letter from Your Lover does not contain spoilers.
Fans of the romance genre will undoubtedly embrace The Last Letter from Your Lover. The film looks beautiful. This is undoubtedly a credit to Alice Sutton’s art direction and Anna Robbin’s costume design, mainly in the film 1960’s storyline. It has breathtaking views of ocean-front vistas. The men are in dapper suits. The women have on their Sunday best every day of the week. Fancy hats and all. The cast is likable. Easy on the eyes. What’s not to like? Like most films that dedicate to multiple linear storylines, the problem is that it acts as a smokescreen by covering up payoffs and character interaction that aren’t necessarily earned.
Directed by Augustine Frizell (Never Goin’ Back), The Last Letter from Your Lover tells the story of Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), a 1960’s humble housewife who is living a life of luxury with her fat cat, captain of the industry husband, Laurence (Joe Alwyn, still trying to get rid of the stench of Harriet). Her life becomes the subject of a story, nearly 50 years later, when a London Chronicle reporter, Ellie (Felicity Jones), uncovers a stack of her clandestine letters.
The problem is they weren’t written to her husband, Laurence. They corresponded with Anthony O’Hare (Emma’s Callum Turner), a financial journalist assigned to cover Ms. Stirling’s husband. Jennifer is tired of her husband’s absence from her life (that has resulted in her being childless) or, in general, the way he dismisses her thoughts and feelings of a housewife who doesn’t know her place. Anthony connects with her on an intellectual level that treats her as an equal, not a subordinate.
Nick Payne (The Crown) and Esta Spalding (Masters of Sex) wrote the adaptation of Jojo Moyes’s novel. Having never read the book, I can only surmise (or hope) that delved deeper into themes that the script only touches upon. The writers never go beyond surface-level insight. For instance, both of Stirling’s lovers are one-note and lack any three-dimensional quality. The script never approaches a deeper meaning of a 1960’s housewife’s oppression.
On the other side is Turner’s O’Hare. He is miscast here. He shows a real lack of charm other than being tall or being open with his feelings. So, the writer is a better man? Even though he has a history of adultery? Other than a man who worked hard for his family? These situations are never clear-cut. It’s a romance with a faux emotional connection that, on screen, frankly, has not been earned.
Clearly, the best part of the film is Jones’s Ellie. She is thoroughly charming and headstrong. In a way, women are allowed to be now, but not the way Sterling was. Her timeline also develops a romance with an archivist (played by Informer‘s Nabhaan Rizwan). They have a natural, almost awkward chemistry together that’s endearing. It’s more sincere than expected. However, Ellie’s pursuit of the truth behind the love letters is nothing but a hallow attempt to prop up the movie’s driving force. Her extreme interest, especially considering her lack of affection for romance to begin with, doesn’t ring true.
The Last Letter from Your Lover will ultimately find an audience with its picturesque eye-candy visuals, uncomplicated themes, and the talented leads in Woodley and Jones. The fact is glossed over character motivations that are more complicated than the story presents. The final result is a romance that passes the eye test that’s saddled with a script that doesn’t do one thing exceptionally well. The weighty themes are super thin here, and the result is a patronizing romance.
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