“We had our chance.”
Well crafted, well acted, and very well written, the unabashedly and hopelessly romantic The Last Letter From Your Lover tells a tale that’s both universal and singular without having a real signature style all its own. That’s rarely a detriment to this sumptuous and ambitious narrative adapted from Jojo Moye’s novel and directed with subtlety by Augustine Frizzell though, and I think it’s one of the better films Netflix has released so far this year. It’s a quite literal investigation of regret, of how saying ‘what if’ can itself become a haunting ghost in the halls of a long life left to roam, of how old love can inspire new love, and how love of all kinds can invigorate and rejuvenate any old soul. This is a sappy, somewhat predictable, and altogether lovely picture. It’s like a far lesser yet still happenstance fueled and focused Brief Encounter for the modern era.
Vacillating between modern day England and the mid to late 1960’s, The Last Letter From Your Lover spins its love story like two separate records combined to make one very fascinating double album. One side is scratchy and the other is pristine, one’s audibly dusty and the other disc is crisp and clean; such is love in old age and during overlooked youth. The fuel to this film is the journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones), hot off heartbreak, filling her void with random hookups and work assignments. She takes on a story from a colleague, finds a tangent worth pursuing, and comes across the nervously attractive archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan) in the process. Two strangers fall for one another in the past as we watch two other strangers cautiously lock eyes in the present. Love and longing, or the lack thereof, fuel every single frame of this film. It’s so warm and colorful and inviting.
More time is given to the post accident amnesiac Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), as it should be. She’s a Jackie Kennedy lookalike, both in dress and eventually found self-confidence, married to the businessman Lawrence (Joe Alwyn) even though she can’t remember what drew her to him in the first place. Work defines his every action and he’s an empty character on purpose. Jennifer needs psychological and physical stimulation after her recent accident, and she finds that in the form of a Mr. Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner), a charming writer penning a piece on Lawrence, and whose eyes catch Jennifer’s at every turn. The roles are well cast by two incredibly desirable actors, and their eager eyes express truly evocative longing. They both thirst for and hound for something real, for something that evolves a want into a need.
This invigorating and somewhat inspirational film has minor twists as it builds to its obvious yet ultimately foregone conclusion, and it’s probably better off to experience those moments as the wheels slowly spin and unfold all of the little white lies tucked in here and there than it would to be read them as text. The Last Letter From Your Lover is a little messy here and there like most frenzied and manic love letters are, but it’s also an excellent ripoff of the most classic of romances. Most folks won’t remember these character’s names or what exactly happened, but they’ll still be left with the appropriate feeling, and that’s more success than most films can claim. I championed this one from start to finish, and it’s a small film worth celebrating. You’d have to be soulless to root against it.
“They’re so rich in feeling.”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5