Sophie (Seyfried) is a fact checker – it’s like researcher, apparently – for a New York magazine for whom she seems to specialise in romantic stories. She then flies to Verona (that’s in Italy, folks) with her fiancé Victor (Bernal) on a sort of pre-honeymoon trip. As a restaurateur himself, he’s very passionate about food and decides that rather than spend time with his wife-to-be, he wants to drive 120 kilometres to see a truffle. Sophie is having none of it and goes into town to have a look around.
There, she finds a courtyard in which there are women sobbing as they write love letters which they put on a wall (I’m not making this up). It’s a local tradition in honour of Romeo and Juliet and a local group called the secretaries of Juliet write back to these poor lovelorn women, like a bunch of romantic agony aunts. Then Sophie finds a letter written by Claire (Redgrave) some fifty years previously and she writes back. Claire subsequently comes to Verona with her (sit down, you might not believe this) handsome grandson Charlie (Egan) in tow and well, if you can’t guess what happens next you’re obviously not trying.
This is billed as a romantic comedy but if you can find any laughs in this you’re a better gag detective than I am. However, it certainly has pretensions to romance, albeit a well-worn, utterly predictable Hollywood version. What it does do well is to act as a travel brochure. This is a beautiful looking film, with the architecture, countryside of Tuscany and everything in between, all captured at just the right time of day to make you want to go on holiday to Italy RIGHT NOW.
The cast prove to be a bit of a mixed bag. Redgrave is terrific, as you’d expect, and manages to add some real feeling to the film – it’s her story that rings most true. Amanda Seyfried is gorgeous but also proves once again that she can act despite the sappy story, while Bernal is simply there as a stooge and hopefully will do something more interesting again soon. Only Australian Egan is a bit wooden and this is partly because his English accent isn’t much kop – were there really no Englishman suitable for the role?
Letters to Juliet is fine for what it is (albeit at least 20 minutes too long) and given how well it did in the cinemas this is sure to become a favourite on DVD and Blu-ray. Hankies at the ready now...
EXTRAS ★★★ An audio commentary with both director Gary Winick and Amanda Seyfried; Deleted and Extended Scenes; The Making of Letters to Juliet: in Italia; and A Courtyard in Verona, a short feature on the notion of love itself. Aww.