The Last Letter From Your Lover | Review


Augustine Frizzell's sophomore theatrical feature's an adaptation of Jojo Moyes's 2011 novel: The Last Letter From Your Lover. The story spans decades, charting two romantic timelines when a journalist stumbles upon letters that tell the story of one couple's illicit affair in 1965.

Seeing a story like this back on the big screen truly felt like a comfort blanket. The setting seemed so familiar, dripping in elegance from the production design of James Merifield, whose materialisation of period glamour has been seen previously in Mary Queen of Scots and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. 

Frizzell's direction is so clear and focussed, taking Nick Payne and Esta Spalding's script from page to screen with ease making it clear which timeline we're living in without too much nodding of the head.

Ultimately, the film works where many romances fail in that it has been so beautifully realised through the female gaze. Shailene Woodley inhabits her role as Jennifer Stirling with grace, honouring her character's flaws and lack of interest in being 'liked', which is truly a refreshing thing to see. Jennifer's unapologetic desire and nuance make for a compelling narrative that refused to slip into the cliché "damsel in distress", which we are accustomed to seeing in period romance movies. 

The chemistry between herself and Anthony O'Hare, played by Callum Turner, is believable, which causes heartache when they're missing from the screen. The story between Stirling and O'Hare is the hook of the film and, unfortunately, when we wander back to the present-day, the romance between Ellie (Felicity Jones) and Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan) is missing the luxury of time given to the affair. In a novel, the numerous pages would dissect the details of Ellie's thinking as she moves from a long-term relationship to a blossoming new romance, but that is missing, which makes it feel somewhat incomplete. Although there are efforts to embody the synchronicity in how the two pairs of lovers fall for one another in small spaces that remain unseen by unwanted onlookers, it just ever-so-slightly misses the electricity between Woodley and Turner.

The film runs at 110 minutes which washes away quickly with how neatly the story moves, and perhaps with just a stretch more time, there would've been time to indulge fully in both timelines. A similar narrative thrived in George Tillman Jr's The Longest Ride, and at just over two hours in length, the film successfully honoured each romance enough for both to feel entrancing. 

It feels as though the reception to The Last Letter From Your Lover is kinder than what we usually see with films of this genre. It is so easy to dismiss romances as audience-pleasing clichéd drivel, but as it is something so many people combat in their lifetimes, a new space on the shelf is always welcome to me. To see hardened hearts softening perhaps suggests a new season is on the horizon, hopefully with room for more women like Jennifer and Ellie. 

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