The Last Letter from Your Lover is adapted from Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same name. If Moyes sounds familiar, that’s because she wrote Me Before You, which was also adapted for screen. I have read both books, but it was The Last Letter from Your Lover that compelled me to write to her. The novel was so rich with emotion and beautifully written that I just had to reach out and tell her how much I loved her book. She responded in such a lovely way, and so, as you can imagine, I had high hopes going into this film.
It is a perfectly competent film; director Augustine Frizzell does a good job in delivering us an epic romance, set against the backdrop of the 60s. The costumes, scenic locations, and lush settings are really well done, not to mention that leads Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner, who play love interests Jennifer and Anthony, have crackling chemistry together. The film takes its time to build the pair’s relationship, from platonic sightseeing adventures to a heart-pounding love both cannot ignore.
The complication? Well, Jennifer is married to Lawrence Stirling, played by Joe Alwyn. Alwyn is the more refined version of a Tom Buchanan, where Jennifer was courted and married because they suit each other, not for any sense of love or affection. He excels at his portrayal of this cold, detached man. The thing is, he isn’t in the film enough, which I understand since the focus is on Anthony and Jennifer’s love affair. It’s a shame though, since I feel that Alwyn is never a big part of the projects he stars in (The Favourite also comes to mind). I would love to see more of what he’s capable of.
The Last Letter from Your Lover toggles between the past and the present, the two narratives linked by journalist Ellie’s (Felicity Jones) discovery of one of Anthony’s letters to Jennifer while she was researching another article. Curious to know more, she, along with archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan), make their way through the archives to find out more about this mysterious J and her Boot (Jennifer’s nickname for Anthony). It becomes blatantly obvious that Ellie and Rory will develop a romance, but the modern day romance isn’t as affecting as the one in the past.
Jones and Rizwan don’t have much chemistry together, and it’s hard to understand why they end up together, or how this pairing can even measure up to Woodley and Turner’s. The whole point is to highlight the power of words and a well-written letter, that words of love spoken so long ago can inspire both Ellie and Rory. On paper, it makes sense. On screen, it just doesn’t. The film also moves from past to present haphazardly, which is a bit jarring. It bothers the viewer less the further you go into the film, but it would be nice if there was some coherent link or emotional tether that made the back and forth transitions more easeful.
I liked that they chose older actors for the older versions of Anthony and Jennifer, instead of ageing up Woodley and Turner. Ben Cross and Diana Kent did such fantastic jobs, especially Cross who even sounded like Turner at times.
The Last Letter from Your Lover had the bones to be something better, instead it settles for good enough, meaning it’s a good enough film to stream on Netflix. They often say the book is better, and in this case, it really is. The movie is pleasing, but the book moved me, so it isn’t even a close fight. But hey, if you’re looking for a romantic flick to spice up your day, this should do the trick.
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The Last Letter from Your Lover is a competent film, with beautiful scenic locations and stirring performances. It's main issue is the lack of balance in its parts, with the modern day romance not living up to the epic romance of the past.
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