Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Gary Winick
Running Time: 105 mins
Letters To Juliet is an American film about a woman who travels to Verona in Italy with dreams of becoming a writer, where she meets a group of women who reply to lovelorn letters addressed to William Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet.
The best romantic comedies have a little bit of everything. A bit of slapstick, a bit of cheesy romance, a bit of dry wit and a bit of genuine emotional depth. Some rom-coms, however, go a little too heavy on some of those elements, and that’s exactly what proves so problematic about Letters To Juliet.
Though a perfectly harmless film with some lovely visuals and a pleasant cast, the movie is at times painfully schmaltzy with very little genuine emotional depth to back that up. A little bit of cheesy romance and sappy emotion can go a long way, but Letters To Juliet leans way too heavily into that, ultimately hurting it in the long run.
At first, there’s something rather nice about the film’s whole premise. Following a budding writer in a complex romance who travels to Verona, a city still filled with the legacy of Romeo & Juliet, one of the great love stories, Letters To Juliet has all the ingredients of a charming, dreamy romantic comedy in its opening act.
However, the movie quickly loses its focus on the fact that Amanda Seyfried’s character is much more than a generic romantic interest for a rather dull male lead in Christopher Egan. What’s more, both eventually play second fiddle to Vanessa Redgrave, whose story about re-treading lost loves from the past just isn’t all that interesting.
Seyfried is wasted after proving herself to be thoroughly likable in the opening act. Egan is fairly bland through the whole movie, and never proves a convincing match for Seyfried over her charismatic but neglectful fiancé in Gael García Bernal. As for Redgrave, she’s perfectly lovely through the whole movie, but her character lacks the depth that should come with a woman carrying the weight of a lifetime’s experience in love on her shoulders.
The film’s story reminds me of a Spanish film called Live Twice, Love Once, which followed a man ageing with dementia as he searched the country for his former childhood love. The difference, however, is that Live Twice, Love Once managed to touch on some really thought-provoking and emotionally resonant ideas about the ageing process and the enduring power of love, whereas Letters To Juliet only uses those themes in a very casual, almost random manner.
It’s symptomatic of a generic romantic comedy that’s more interested in cheesy, schmaltzy romance than genuine dramatic depth. Though perfectly fine for lovers of all rom-coms, Letters To Juliet squanders the opportunity to tell a far more resonant story about love, instead settling for a dull portrayal of Vanessa Redgrave’s look back into the past, and an even duller love story between Amanda Seyfried and Christopher Egan.
Admittedly, Letters To Juliet does have some lovely visuals, production design and costume design, as well as capturing that sun-baked Italian atmosphere rather nicely. It is rather superficial in the grand scheme of things, but it brings a nice tone to the film as a whole.
However, lacking in genuine emotional depth, good humour or even a particularly interesting story, Letters To Juliet feels like a real missed opportunity for a truly engaging romantic comedy. It’s fairly harmless in reality, but it’s by no means the best or most original film in the genre, so that’s why I’m giving it a 6.3 overall.