Listen: Russ for Reel Dialogue reviews 'The Last Letter from Your Lover' with Hope 103.2's Laura Bennett
The moment we see a movie about love and romance, fans of the genre are hooked. We want to see how the “meant-to-be” couple overcomes the odds to end up together – or how their hearts break when circumstance pulls them apart.
It’s a unique kind of cruelty, perhaps, but it can also stir hope, intrigue and excitement in seeing love take centre stage and win the day.
Netflix’s The Last Letter From Your Lover uses these same devices, but also poses a challenge increasingly seen in the genre: can we cheer on our “star-crossed lovers” when their relationship is founded in an affair?
Felicity Jones (Rogue One, The Theory of Everything) plays Ellie Haworth, a journalist at The London Chronicle who stumbles upon a letter in the papers’ archives detailing an exchange between an upper class woman in the 1960s (Shailene Woodley) and Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner) – a former writer who had struck up a relationship with her.
Ellie, captivated by their connection, scours the archives for more letters, and the past is interspersed with the present as we discover why the couple met and where they ended up.
The storytelling in The Last Letter From Your Lover is beautiful.
As Ellie finds each letter you’re taken back to a time when handwritten words were our primary currency for connection. When an unchecked postbox or an intercepted mail delivery could shift futures.
Letter writing is an escape for Shailene Woodley’s Jennifer, the smiling well-dressed wife of a staunch businessman, who, while he may fly with her to Italy, spends little time enjoying it with her.
Jennifer meets Anthony at a time where she’s feeling bored and unseen, and his head-over-heels affection for her is enticing. Ultimately though, they’ll have to decide whether their romance is more than just a fleeting fancy, or, as Anthony says, something that will stop Jennifer from “being wasted” in her current life.
Seeing Jennifer’s predicament, you understand why she longs for more. Why she wants to feel loved, alive and valued.
It’s not easy though to champion her solution when – if taken off the screen into real life – the traumatic, heartbreaking and real-world consequences would be massive.
The Last Letter From Your Lover’s more worthwhile takeaway is in showing us why Jennifer’s marriage was a challenge, what made her unhappy, and how simply being seen could have helped remedy some of the issues.
If Jennifer’s husband had made space for her, been honest with her and empowered her more, would she be with Anthony? If Jennifer had voiced her concerns and spoken up about her sadness, would she have been more content? Could a woman of the 1960s have done that?
For sure, we don’t watch romance movies to “clutter them with reality”, and, this isn’t to say unhealthy marriages should be suffered, but it is an invitation to watch movies like The Last Letter From Your Lover with eyes wide open.
Ask yourself, what is this movie really saying about how romantic satisfaction can be found? Do I agree with that? If I adopted the values of these characters in my own life what would happen? Why do I resonate with some of their feelings? Are there healthy ways I can do something about that?
The Last Letter From Your Lover is streaming on Netflix now. Rated M