Star cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan.
Plot: Amanda Seyfried goes to Verona for a pre-honeymoon and ends up joining a group of volunteers who respond to letters to Juliet, seeking advice about love. After answering one letter dated 1951, she inspires its author, Vanessa Redgrave, to search for her long-lost love.
What’s good: The characters’ romantic quest for love; the easy pace of the film.
What’s bad: The blandness throughout the film; the lack of strong emotions.
Verdict: Strictly for die-hard romantics only.
Loo break: Any time.
Summit Entertainment and Applehead Pictures’ Letters To Juliet is about finding true love. Amanda Seyfried is a New York-based ‘fact-finder’, with a penchant for writing. She travels to Verona (the historic home of Juliet Capulet of Romeo & Juliet) for a pre-honeymoon trip with fiancé Gael García Bernal. But Bernal is too busy with vineyards and cheese-tasting to accompany Amanda for an opera or a romantic boat ride. So, while wandering the cobbled streets of Vienna all by herself, she discovers the ‘Secretaries of Juliet’ – a group of volunteers who reply to the lovelorn letters addressed to the fabled Juliet. Amanda joins them and finds an unanswered fifty-year-old letter written by a tearful teenage British girl, bidding goodbye to her Italian lover. She replies to the letter, only to find out that the sender (Vanessa Redgrave), now in her sixties, has traveled all the way to Italy with her cynical grandson (Christopher Egan), in search of her long-lost lover.
Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan’s story is simple and inspired by a real-life group of volunteers who reply to thousands of letters of heartbreak, love and romance written to Juliet. While the story may not have any particular lows, there isn’t any part in the movie that rises above the rest. The audience has to watch Amanda’s disappointment with her fiancé; Vanessa wringing her hands in hope; and Christopher muttering under his breath almost throughout the movie. Moreover, the writers don’t offer any explanation as to why Amanda is still with Bernal even though it is evident that he is obsessed with his restaurant and work. All she does is make puppy eyes at him (which he never notices). Never once does she try to make herself heard in front of him.
Another obvious flaw in the script is that the audience is shown only one side of Garcia – the selfish and talkative fiancé. But when Amanda decides to break up with him, his reaction is surprisingly controlled and passive. The movie has a slow pace, but that serves it well, because it allows the kindling of romance.
Christopher’s dialogues are good: they’re witty, scathing and adequately restrained when needed. Everyone else’s dialogues are run of the mill. However, Amanda’s letter to Vanessa, which should have been extraordinarily moving, is disappointing. For a letter that convinced a 60-year-old woman to travel across the continent in search of a lover she left more than four decades ago (the crux of the movie, so to say), the words used are surprisingly bland.
Amanda Seyfried’s acting is not upto the mark. She maintains a wide-eyed expression throughout the movie, even if she is disappointed, sad or flirting. Christopher Egan is good as the cynical, over-protective grandson who detests Amanda initially for putting his grandmother through all the trouble. Vanessa Redgrave is good; her excitement and nervousness are palpable as she knocks on the door of each ‘Lorrenzo’ (the first name of her long-lost lover). Gael García Bernal is equally capable as the workaholic fiancé.
Director Gary Winick (of Bride Wars, Charlotte’s Web and 13 Going On 30 fame) does a good job. He manages to maintain a leisurely pace throughout the film while covering the beautiful scenery of Italy. Andrea Guerra’s background score is strictly okay for the major part of the film and very good in the climax. Cinematography by Marco Pontecorvo is good. Bill Pankow’s editing could have been better. Some scenes in the middle of the movie hastily shoot off the screen.
Letters To Juliet is an all-out romantic film (no surprises here), but the film never rises above a certain point. There’s nothing you will take away from the film even after watching long-lost lovers unite or seeing a new-fangled romance blossom. In a day and age when love stories are becoming increasingly innovative and commercial in their way of storytelling (for eg., the Twilight series and P.S. I Love You), there seems to be little or no effort made in making Letters To Juliet a memorable experience.