Movies

The Last Letter From Your Lover film review

★★★★

Directed by: Augustine Frizzell

Written by: Nick Payne, Esta Spalding. Jojo Moyes

Starring: Felicity Jones, Nabhaan Rizwan, Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn, Callum Turner, Diana Kent and Ben Cross

Film Review by: Brian Penn

The Last Letter From Your Lover review

The Last Letter From Your Lover film reviewThe Last Letter From Your Lover film review

For a film industry increasingly driven by franchising we might question whether character development and storytelling really matters anymore. However, this new romantic drama by Augustine Frizzell will hopefully buck the trend. Two love stories set 56 years apart provide the impetus as a journalist pieces together an illicit affair from a series of letters. But don’t reach for the tissues too quickly because this is a love story told with sincerity rather than sentiment.

Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is a journalist on the London Chronicle with the nose for a good story. Deep in research mode she stumbles across a love letter burning with passion. But what is the back story to this highly charged relationship? Ellie is a thirtysomething in the mould of Bridget Jones; and just like her template is looking for the right man and a direction in life. She tracks down the mysterious lovers with the help of newspaper archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). He is shy, sensitive and inevitably attracted to Ellie. Together they discover further letters as the lovers’ identity is revealed.

The action smartly flashes back to 1965 where Jennifer Sterling (Shailene Woodley) would appear to have the perfect life. Married to handsome industrialist Lawrence Sterling (Joe Alwyn) she wants for nothing. Journalist Anthony O’Hare (Calum Turner) is assigned to write a profile on Lawrence. An affair quickly sparks into life as Jennifer and Anthony fall in love. Back in the present, Ellie and Rory have a misfiring romance acting as counter balance to the primary narrative. Ellie perseveres with a story that stubbornly refuses to give up its secrets. She finds the lovers separated by circumstance and wants to tie a bow on their story. The older lovers played by Diana Kent and Ben Cross are reticent as they ponder whether some things are best left in the past?

The Last Letter from Your Lover is an incredibly old fashioned approach to filmmaking. With no violence, profanity or exploding cars to obscure the view it assumes a poetic beauty. Intelligent direction also means the film has no need for a graphic depiction of intimacy. It gently builds the story from a series of love letters, words from the past that still resonate in the present. In an age dominated by emails, texts and social media we have completely forsaken the art of letter writing. Words are the essence of communication, and a wonderful script makes this point with clarity and eloquence. A cool soundtrack adds expression, especially Aretha Franklin’s seductive classic ‘Do right woman, do right man’. Moreover, an excellent cast deliver well-judged performances and find a basic truth that life can take unexpected turns.

It creates an evocative picture of London in the 1960s with an undeniable sense of style. The smoke filled shots of Marylebone station are hugely reminiscent of classic weepy Brief Encounter; but it doesn’t seem a bad thing as the film adds its own spin to the genre. Romantic dramas are much maligned and far too easily dismissed. But this film deserves a chance to shine, as it tries to engage the audience and not clumsily head for the jugular. Cinema goers should have this one on their radar because it might just surprise them.

#BrianPenn

Watch The Last Letter From Your Lover Trailer.