Two unconvincing love stories for the price of one
You get two romantic stories for the price of one in this adaptation of Jojo Moyes’ 2012 novel. The most interesting of these is set in 1965 when socialite Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley) falls in love with Anthony, a journalist (Callum Turner), when he comes to her home to interview her husband Laurence (Joe Alwyn).
The second romance is set in the modern-day between single gal Ellie (Felicity) and fusspot Rory (Nabhan Rizwan) who both work at a London newspaper office.
The two stories become linked when Ellie discovers correspondence from Anthony to Jennifer in the archive department of her workplace. It soon becomes clear to her that the pair were in love but that something happened to break up their extra-marital relationship. As she works hard to discover the backstory behind their failed romance, the film flashbacks into the past to give the viewer insight into what actually happened between them.
This isn’t the first romantic movie to use two different timelines to tell its story – The Longest Ride and Letters to Juliet are just two movies that springs to mind – but by trying to tell two love stories, it doesn’t quite work. As we get to spend more time with Jennifer and Anthony than Ellie and Rory, we only become invested in one of the romances. As such, we never quite buy into the relationship between the modern-day couple as very little seems to happen to make them fall in love with one another.
To be honest, the relationship between Jennifer and Anthony is a little unconvincing too. She is a socialite who appears to be in a loveless marriage and he is a foreign correspondent who turns up at her luxurious beach resort in France. It’s not long before the two have an affair and she is given the choice of spending her days with Laurence, the man who she probably married for financial security, or Anthony, who wants to whisk her away to New York.
As expected, Jennifer chooses the latter but it’s odd that more time wasn’t spent fleshing out their love story. Would you run off with somebody you have only known for a few weeks? After falling head over heels in love with Anthony, this is something Jennifer intends to do but it’s all rather sudden. She doesn’t even know if he picks his toenails in bed!
The path to true love never runs smoothly, of course. Before Jennifer can wave her old life behind, she is involved in a car accident and loses her memory. She forgets Anthony and continues her life without him. It’s only later when she finds a letter from her lover that her memory of their relationship is restored. At this stage, however, the chances of them resuming their love affair are slim, especially when Laurence threatens to ruin Jennifer’s life if she leaves him and runs off to Anthony.
Back in the present day, Ellie learns of their doomed relationship and tries to reunite them. She also tries to deal with her feelings towards Rory and the problems that are muddying their chances of a happily-ever-after. Does she manage to mend one relationship and save her own? That would be telling – you need to read our Ending Explained article to find out the answer. But if you have seen this type of movie before, you shouldn’t expect many surprises as the lives of the two couples intertwine as the story reaches its conclusion.
Unconvincing relationships aside, the movie isn’t a bad one. There is a good sense of time and place when flashing back to the 60s and there are interesting parallels between the two time periods. The director wisely uses some of the same locations and it’s interesting to see how they change over the passage of time.
The four main leads are good and they are surrounded by a decent supporting cast, including the late Ben Cross as the older Anthony and newly-announced Doctor Who Ncuti Gatwa, who briefly appears as one of Ellie’s work colleagues. It’s the performances that lift the movie as without actors of this calibre, this would have been much less interesting.
The Last Letter From Your Lover is a good-looking film, with four attractive actors and a storytelling device that manages to maintain interest. If you’re a die-hard romantic, you will probably love this movie more than I did. You might get swept up in the romances that happen on screen, despite their lack of credibility. But if you’re looking for a love story (or two love stories) that you can believe in, you might be left wanting. This is no Brief Encounter, despite having a heartbreaking sequence that takes place at a train station.