Letters to Juliet (2010) – Movie Review

Danielle Fox ('13)/ Entertainment Editor

The phrase “What if” has done a magnificent job with instilling doubt in people’s lives: “What if I don’t get the job?” or “What if I fail this test?”  But, Gary Winick, the director of one of 2010’s hottest summer flicks, Letters to Juliet, gives the phrase “What if” a new meaning as he challenges people to follow their hearts in search of their true Romeos and Juliets.

The tale begins as Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), an aspiring writer, and her fiancé (Gael García Bernal) prepare to head off for a romantic honeymoon in the city that bread the “star crossed lovers,” Verona, Italy. Within the first few days of arriving in Verona, it is evident that the couple has different ideas of a romantic honeymoon. Bernal excellently portrays an annoying, “Italian-wanna-be,” as he drags Sophie from vineyard to vineyard and factory to factory to taste various Italian foods that would make some yummy money for his new restaurant. Unfortunately, Sophie would much rather site see than walk around dusty-old-factories to taste food. So, the couple decides to venture the city independently, both indulging in their own desires; and thus begins the story’s true adventure of destiny.

As Sophie begins to explore the city, she comes across the Secretaries of Juliet. After women visiting Verona post letters onto a stone wall within the city, the Secretaries of Juliet collect the letters and act as the “wise Capulet” as they respond to the letters of the desperate women seeking advice. Sophie, as the aspiring writer she is, senses an interesting story and begins to mingle with the ladies. While she begins to assist them with their trade she is greatly fascinated with the process; so, it comes as no surprise that when Sophie discovers a Letter to Juliet written by a Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), buried within the Wall of Letters for over 50 years, she has to write back.

Soon enough, the audience has the pleasure of meeting Claire’s thick-skinned grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan). Charlie is everything but thrilled with his grandmother’s desire to rekindle the relationship with her long-lost-love, Lorenzo Bartolini (Franco Nero), and is even less excited with Sophie’s idea of a journey to find Claire’s childhood Romeo.  Egan does a brilliant job bringing a soft-hearted young man marked by a tough exterior to life onto the big screen. Though Charlie loves his grandmother with all his heart, he wants nothing to do with the long-lost-Lorenzo, realistically in fear that Lorenzo may just be lost in a cemetery or lost in his use of memory. Nonetheless, he unwillingly departs on the journey with his grandmother and Sophie, and in the process the audience witnesses the young man come of age and discover what it really means to “follow your heart.”

Yet, although Egan brilliantly captures Charlie’s identity, one could argue that the applaudable character and star of the film is Claire. Winick’s creation of Claire is heart-warming and truly connects the film. As Claire, Charlie and Sophie venture on their journey to find Lorenzo, the audience views the juxtaposition of Claire’s search for a lost love to Charlie and Sophie’s independent absences of love. While the film continues to roll, the audience views how through Claire’s story the characters develop deeper understandings of the phrase “to love and to be loved.”

One significant scene in the film is when Claire brushes Sophie’s hair to give Sophie a royalty she never got to possess because of the absence of her mother throughout her childhood. Although the scene is one of the quieter ones in the film, it carries one of the main messages of the film, which is that love does not always have to be spontaneous or shown in flamboyant acts of display, but it is also shown in the very small and affectionate things people do for each other every day.

Letters to Juliet is a story about adventure, discovering who you are and following your heart to achieve your aspirations. So, with that in mind, head off to the theater to view the heartfelt motion picture, because it is much more than just a “cheesy-lovers-tale;” it is a film enclosed with valuable life lessons and, of course, a whole lot of love.