The Last Letter from your Lover is a new romance film starring Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley, released on Netflix this July 23. Coproduced by Studiocanal, Blueprint Pictures and Film Farm Production, with the participation of Canal+ and Ciné+, the film is based on Jojo Moyes’ time-spanning novel and is directed by Augustine Frizzell. The Last Letter from your Lover is a heart-warming romantic drama that assembles all the familiar ingredients for a great love story.
Set in London across two different time periods, the 1960s and the present-day, The Last Letter from your Lover follows Ellie Haworth (played by Felicity Jones), a journalist at The London Chronicle, who stumbles across love letters dating back to the 1960s while doing research in the newspaper’s archives. She soon becomes determined to solve the mystery surrounding the forbidden affair revealed in the letters. They tell the story of Jennifer Stirling (played by Shailene Woodley), the wife of a wealthy industrialist, and Anthony O’Hare (played by Callum Turner), a financial journalist.
The Last Letter from your Lover is a film about missed connections, miscommunications (a little like An Affair to Remember), looking back at a time before the constant reachability afforded by text messaging.
The film tells two love stories, one influenced by the discovery of the other. While conducting research in The London Chronicle’s archives, Ellie discovers a beautiful love letter addressed to a mysterious J.S. and signed with the name “Boot.” In the hunt for this story, Ellie is helped by archivist Rory (played by Nabhaan Rizwan). A love story begins to unfold between the journalist and the endearing archivist the more letters they read together.
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The two storylines, that of Ellie and Rory, and Jennifer and Anthony (a.k.a. Boot), run parallel to one another, interweaving the two timelines, with both Ellie and Jennifer finding the letters around the same time in the film, but at different time periods. The movie thus does not begin with Ellie finding the letters, but instead opens with Shailene Woodley’s character in 1965 London. She is in a car, being reassured by her husband that everything is going to be alright. She looks lost and has a scar on her face. In bed, saying goodnight to her husband Laurence (played by Joe Alwyn), he corrects her “Larry, you call me Larry.” It becomes apparent that Jennifer has lost her memory.
As Jennifer finds the letters, slowly she remembers her love affair with Anthony O’Hare, a journalist covering a story on her husband. The story of the film is thus about the memory of a past being remembered, reconstructed twice, through these letters. For both Ellie and Jennifer, the letters help reconstruct a forgotten past, a past which would have been lost into the ether if it were not for these love letters. Today’s text messaging does not offer the same appeal. As Ellie and Rory joke, love letters have today been replaced by texts filled with cryptic one-word messages, or worse, emojis, while the other waits five days to reply for no real reason.
The Last Letter from your Lover is a great romantic drama. It is about a love that endures across time, and the lost art of the love letter. It is also about two women living at two very different times. Woodley plays with poise a woman in the 1960s stuck in a marriage with a patronizing husband, unable to divorce him while the law remained unfavorable to women. Jones’s Ellie is more playful, confident modern woman. Her motivation and determination though in reuniting the lovers behind the letters is not as clear in the film, as it is in Moyes’ novel.
It is a film that echoes past romantic dramas—the missed connection in An Affair to Remember, the finding of love letters hidden inside a book through archival research in AS Byatt’s Possession, or Grace Kelly in her convertible on the cliff edges of the French Riviera in To Catch A Thief (Hitchcock’s romantic thriller). The film pieces together familiar ingredients of epic romances, and thus nothing feels really surprising. Scenes unfold as if you had already seen them before, like re-watching your favorite romantic drama for a comfortable Friday night in.
The Last Letter from your Lover is being released theatrically in the U.K. by StudioCanal UK on August 6. The film was written by Nick Payne and Esta Spalding, produced by Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss, Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, with Jojo Moyes, Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley amongst the executive producers.