Love, in truth, is a boring, mundane, everyday affair. To capture an aspect of it as perfectly and poignantly as possible has been the struggle of artists from Homer to James Blunt to Jojo Moyes. It is why the poet Raina Maria Rilke, in his book, “Letters to a Young Poet”, advises young poets to avoid writing love poems. Because frankly, it is difficult to say anything new about love. The best to be done is to capture a moment between two lovers and to explore a certain trope peculiar to their period/narrative. This is what The Last Letter from Your Lover has done. It plies the letter-writing path of older films like The Notebook and The Colour Purple to bring its love to fruition. A (love) letter stills a moment in time. And to build a story around numerous exchanges of such letters is to be transported into a magical world of romance. This is what Augustine Frizzell has tried to do with her adaptation of a Jojo Moyes novel. Whether it succeeds begs another question entirely.
All the romance tear-jerker tropes are employed for the movie. From amnesia, withheld letters, missed meetings, ghastly accidents, lost lovers, the outright fear of love; the film is packed full with an arsenal of such tropes to further its story. But what captures attention, beyond the narrative, beyond the acting and the costumes even, are the gorgeous scenes, numerous of them flung all over the film; delightful conversations between composition and colours. It looks like a magical love film. Paired across each other are equally gorgeous actors, the alluring Shailene Woodley plays Jennifer and the roguishly handsome Callum Turner plays the serial adulterer, Anthony O’Hare. Running parallel to Jennifer and Anthony’s Love story set in 60s Britain, is Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) and Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan), who are co-workers in present day Britain and have uncovered the illicit love letters shared between the older lovers. As the movie unfolds the puzzle of the older couple’s love, new love burgeons in present day Britain between feisty, outspoken journalist, Ellie and unassuming archivist, Rory.
Shailene Woodley sits pretty throughout the film; in fact, attention is taken away from the acting because upon arriving into a scene, the viewer spends a good number of time taking in its beauty. There is some plasticity to Shailene Woodley’s performance, but thankfully it dies away as the movie’s plot properly unravels. In a way, this is understandable, because the star of the show are the letters. With Anthony O’Hare declaring to Jennifer that, “Tell me to wait, and I will,” one has a sense of what to expect from these letters. In some instances, they come off as melodramatic, but they capture the right effect in most cases.
But for a movie adapted from a novel, the character development feels scanty. Forgivable plot holes arise in various moments, the chemistry between the leads appear forced in certain scenes, and both couples in both periods make love right after a long dancing session, depicting a British romance culture standstill. Moving from the lovers, Lawrence (Joe Alwyn) is unconvincing as antagonist. He is just a man with an unfaithful wife that the movie mutes to present as the bad guy, an unfortunate villain.
In the end, as problematic as love has proven itself to be, we all yearn for its complications and melodrama. It ascertains our constant battle against aloneness and our longing to reach idolatrous proportions in the eyes of another person, that the broken essence of the self, which we guard dearly, be seen as faultless and admired by another. Love letters capture this; the solitary act of writing them represents our aloneness, the absence of the other, and the flowery words, the truthfulness with which we express our feelings, tend to the other aspect of our longing for something magical, that it be responded to in kind. This is something The Last Letter fromYour Lover understands and tries to capture.
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- The costuming, the scenes, they show that a considerable amount of time and thought went into presenting beauty. The short length of most of these scenes leaves you yearning.
- The film score is great. There are some fine soundtracks throughout the film.
The Last Letter from Your Lover is available on Netflix.