Today on Netflix, The Last Letter From Your Lover brings us all that meaty will-they-won’t-they romantic tension, and it is, in my view, outstanding. It’s organized in a narrative structure, similar to The Notebook, except instead of a London-based love, there are two. Shailene Woodley plays Jenny, a remarkably plausible rich ’60s homemaker who is struggling to recover from amnesia — this is, after all, an amnesia film — and finding the tryst she had with a reporter named “Boot” but whose real identity is Anthony O’Hare, served by the completely romantic Callum Turner, via love letters to her.
STORY BASED ON UNLAWFUL ROMANCES
Jenny’s affair — and the memories that follow — plays concurrently with a narrative involving modern journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones). Ellie discovers the letters from Boot in the current day and begins a compulsive investigation with the aid of a historian, Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). We all know where this is going: she’s a norm-breaking commitment-phobic, he’s a norm cat owner.
The letters themselves are beautiful statements of unashamed love, and they made me want to give a detailed, poetic email, if not an actual letter, in response. They’re brief, vivid glimpses of shared moments and prospective futures, with words like, “If all we have is minutes and seconds, I’ll etch them into my mind so I can recall them in the same manner as when I close my eyes, I see your lovely face,” and “We might be happy.” So ecstatic. You have my soul and my aspirations in your grip.”
BEAUTIFULLY CAPTURED LATE 60’S
Visually, the film resembles a fantasy. The style is flawless, especially for Jenny, with monochromatic looks, thick Bushy brows, and flawless nails that made me appreciate Shailene Woodley’s stunning hands. In comparison to the turmoil of 1960s London — and even modern-day London — the depiction of a romantic encounter on the French Riviera is beautiful. Even the film’s nightmare sequences, which take place primarily in Jenny’s husband’s poorly lit study and on car drives around wet London, have a dreamlike feel to them.
REMARKABLE CHARACTER GROWTH
Sure, there are narrative gaps and unsolved concerns – are we to think Boot never wrote Jenny a single letter despite her P.O. box being open the entire time? Sure, there’s room for improvement in terms of character growth. But it’s the romance that really shines. Writing a letter, especially to your sweetheart, is an opportunity to take your time and convey exactly what you mean. It’s a chance for some blatant flirting.
TWO TIMELINES EXTRAVAGANZA
Part of the charm of The Last Letter From Your Lover is that it is a whole yearn extravaganza. Ninety percent of the time, romances aren’t romantic. They’re largely mundane: heated discussions over what degree to put the air conditioner too, tense meetings with extended family, and mountains of invoices to go through. Is it feasible to romanticize the humdrum of everyday life? Sure, but Jenny and Boot don’t spend their life together, which is one of the reasons the film works so well. Too many problems would have weighed them down, and they could have forgotten about their honeymoon stage.
HOMAGE TO INCOMPLETE LOVE STORIES
I’m pleased my parents were able to spend their life together, but I’ve always understood how much they adore one other. But it wasn’t until I read those notes that their relationship seemed like a romance, and I believe that’s why letter writing is so unique. It’s an opportunity to say everything in the deepest, honest, or hilarious manner we can. And The Last Letter From Your Lover is a testament to that fact.
ALL HEART JUST CAUSE OF ITS FLAWS
‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ may be chastised for its lack of imagination, and even chastised for not introducing novel ideas and feelings to the style that has been driven into the ground. But, hey, certain films are all about the heart, and this one is one of them.