Letters To Juliet

Letters To Juliet

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Romantic comedies are not for everyone, so let's get this clear from the start. If you believe that there's a perfect soulmate out there for everyone and that it can never be too late to find true love, this film may be for you. If you find the notion of asking for relationship advice from a confused 13 year old girl ridiculous, it's a non-starter.

The girl in question is, of course, Juliet Capulet - so you can add 'fictional' to that list of qualifiers. This doesn't seem to stop her owning a house in Verona, and it's to this house that Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), an angstful New York fact-checker with dreams of becoming a writer, makes her way in search of distraction whilst on a supposedly romantic holiday with her hardworking chef boyfriend. Said boyfriend (the similarly under-appreciated Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal) is in his element discovering all sorts of gorgeous local foods and wines, Sophie would rather spend her time with Juliet's 'secretaries', who answer the letters left by her unhappy visitors. In the process, she discovers a letter that's 50 years old, writes back to its author, and becomes caught up in a 70 year old woman's quest to find the lover she abandoned in a fit of youthful folly.

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This woman is played by Vanessa Redgrave, who can't help but ooze class and charisma even in such a sentimental role. This is bad news for the terminally bland Seyfried and even worse for the woman's grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan). True, it's difficult to recover from an opening line like "We Brits tend to remain in our ancestral homes," but his achingly bad condescension to Hollywood's stupidest stereotype of the Englishman would be better suited to a Zucker brothers parody than a film that styles itself as artsy romance. He's completely out of step with the mood of the piece and comes across like a clumsy cartoon character, instantly making a nonsense of the attraction that - by the rules of these films - we know he and Sophie will come to feel for each other.

It's not all bad. The countryside looks pretty, there are some handsome old buildings, and these, together with a series of charming cameos from elderly Italian gentlemen, do succeed in imparting some air of romance. The sun is always shining and those looking for a light, feelgood confection may find much that pleases them. But whilst, in general, fluffy romantic comedies are honest about their intentions and can be taken or left for what they are, Letters To Juliet seems to think itself an altogether different kind of film. Its pretentiousness is harder to forgive. This is exactly the kind of drama that Shakespeare loved to lampoon, and it's a sad reflection on the popular misinterpretation of his work.

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2010
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A romantic young American becomes determined to help an ageing Englishwoman find her long lost love in Italy.
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Director: Gary Winick

Writer: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael García Bernal

Year: 2010

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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