Genres are widespread, vast and function in the same way in any form of entertainment media. They categorise what we are experiencing but they also have a fluidity that opens up all sorts of expressionism and interpretation for an artist or filmmaker. But much like the ways of modern life, these forms of interpretations trend, which is why certain styles of a genre go out of fashion. The romance genre it seems has been completely taken over by the romcom hybrid subgenre. For fans of the genre the awkwardness and embarrassments are what warm our hearts the most but ask someone decades ago and they would say the soppiness of the story would have the same effect. The Last Letter From your Lover attempts to blend the awkwardness of a romcom and the soppiness of a pure romance together and I think this is a direction that you need to allow to work in order to get good fulfilment, once that happens you can enjoy a story that demonstrates there’s still passion in handwritten words.
Taking place between two periods of time, modern day and 1965 London, as well as two separate stories, The Last Letter from Your Lover is something that can bring two different audiences with different tastes in romance films together and have the potential to satisfy their tastes. The satisfactory of audiences is better realised in the film often reflecting the parallels early on between it’s two main characters. In the modern day, Ellie (Felicity Jones) is hoping to discover what happened to the romantic relationship between Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) and Anthony (Callum Turner) in 1965. It’s very easy to identify the similarities between Ellie and Jennifer because their love life has a similar negativity about it. Jennifer is in a loveless marriage where she can never get a word in, and Ellie’s love life is broken because of a recent break up, so both are feeling pretty heartbroken in a failing love life. Once you see the parallels, it will convince you why Ellie is so determined to discover what went on between Jennifer and Anthony.
It’s not just the implementation of the parallels that are convincing, Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley give two great performances for their characters respectfully. Felicity Jones gives it her all when her character is at full determination. At the same time she is discovering the details of Jennifer and Anthony’s fling, she is going through something similar with a formal archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan) and though the romantic spark between the two at the start raises every alarm bell that these two are clearly going to get together, it is still a convincing relationship thanks to the performances of the two. Shailene Woodley is equally as impressive too. The frustration with her characters current situation is clear as day and when she meets Anthony, the relief he offers Ellie is something that comes across clear as day.
Of course, with two very different romantic stories being told has to be managed responsibly and that means tackling double the number of things we hate about each style of romance. The main offender of course being the need to overperform a certain emotion, and I can completely understand why some people will see The Last Letter from Your Lover as this vanilla romantic film. Depending on how you like your romance, the awkwardness can be seen as too awkward, the soppiness can be seen as too soppy, etc. It’s not too difficult to identify scenes in The Last Letter from Your Lover where you could say that the atmosphere needed to be turned down a little bit.
As much as I enjoy the relationship between Ellie and Rory, I don’t think the script goes deeper enough to explore their individual struggles away from finding more love letters. They confide in themselves about their past struggles with love and relationships, but I don’t think we ever get to spend time with them alone and discover how they see their problems on their own. If we had gotten the time to learn about these characters as individuals rather than them being together or in some form of contact, we would have two characters with more depth, and I think in the case of Ellie, the already strong connection to Jennifer would be the strong driving force of the film.
Although this film may not get the reputation of other romance films that have come before it, I believe that this is definitely a much cleverer film that it looks. Not only is this story about love letters, but it is also a love letter, a lover letter to the romance genre itself. Although I can’t see it being the commencement of a revitalised genre with a fresher look to it, The Last Letter from Your Lover should most certainly not be knocked down as something that is forgettable. Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley are clearly in love with this story and their performances demonstrate a commitment to make this film feel romantic for audiences split by taste.
Final result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen The Last Letter from Your Lover? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next time: Free Guy