Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 49 minutes, Director – Augustine Frizzell
While researching for an obituary, journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones) unveils a series of unrelated letters telling the story of a lost love affair.
There’s an almost dreamy nature to the idealistic portrait of a picturesque 60s love affair in this adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ 2012 novel of the same name. As Shailene Woodley’s Jennifer and Callum Turner’s journalist Anthony meet in the Southern French heat a spark is formed in their initial debates, apologies and insistent tours of the area. The lengths of their relationship only skyrocket from there with plenty of very steamy moments for what is a 12A rated film. It differs greatly from the grey array of flings that we see modern day London-based journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones) wake up to after breaking up with her boyfriend of eight years – only seeing him in early pictures towards the start of the film. There are two distinct tones established and it does sometimes lead the film to feel like two different films entirely.
This is even with the links between the two stories. Ellie, while researching for an obituary, uncovers a mysterious letter between the two lovers and begins to delve deeper into their affair – Jennifer is married, although with little connection, to wealthy industrialist Laurence (Joe Alwyn). Jennifer herself is piecing together her own experiences, after suffering memory loss due to a car crash we’re almost experiencing a flashback within a flashback. It appears that we spend the majority of time in the mid-60s settings, with their brightly coloured costumes and scenic views it’s often like looking a ta holiday brochure from the time, and this is certainly where the film’s strengths lie. It almost feels as if just this story could run on its own and provide amusement enough – all before Jones’ near subplot comes more into play and effect in the second half of the piece, when things begin to balance out more with less jumping around.
Once out of the restrictions of just five minute segments with a somewhat cliché modern rom-com style – Ellie finds herself getting close to her paper’s archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan), a relationship which doesn’t quite match the flare of Woodley and Turner’s; perhaps due to less screen-time – the narrative of the modern day based events is able to flow with more ease. They certainly pick up more once given more time to breathe, and the interactions of the cast, particularly the two central characters in this time, are advanced beyond the basics. Jones appears to feel more at home in the character, initially feeling slightly out of place due to being underused in the first half of the film where she’s given little screen time. However, as things begin to properly balance out and Ellie’s research and personal life begins to wrap around the unfolding and increasingly risky affair Augustine Frizzell’s film truly shows itself as one of two halves.
As the narrative finds its stride you begin to become more engaged with both stories that are being told – therefore forming a more effective impact when they finally begin to properly meet and develop together. There may still be some more conventional elements in place, but they don’t appear to be as obvious, and certainly don’t begin to remove anything from the film overall. It is perhaps proof that the lure of the 60s is the film’s biggest and best draw. Keeping the viewer in place to see how that pans out. However, there’s still amusement and engagement to be found elsewhere once everything is in play, and given more time to be explored. It just, much like the long-distanced lovers who tell their story through the various scattered letters, takes a bit of time for things to be explored and unravelled enough for this to kick in.
Certainly a film of two halves The Last Letter From Your Lover’s biggest draw is the picturesque 60s backdrop. Once out of cliché rom-com territory and given more time, the modern day segments help progress the story, even if its own relationship isn’t as strongly felt.