Review: Romantic drama 'The Last Letter From Your Lover' is snail mail
Courtesy of Netflix
Midway through Augustine Frizzell’s harmless “The Last Letter From Your Lover,” you start to wonder if the performers are trapped inside a different film. Written by Nick Payne and Esta Spalding, and based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, “Lover” tells a decades spanning love story that begins in 1965 and bleeds into present day, but there’s hardly any spark or romantic spunk among the swath of respectable leads including Felicity Jones, Shailene Woodley, Joe Alwyn and Callum Turner. The film should click with its intended audiences and those who gobbled up the New York Times best selling novel, but casual fans looking for a quick date night fix on a Friday night should steer clear.
Frizzell decently splices the dual timelines together and this is a sizable upgrade in terms of budget and star power from her last film, the little-seen indie “Never Goin’ Back.” In 1965, Woodley and Alwyn play the respectable and wealthy couple Jennifer and Laurence Stirling currently occupying Anthony O’ Hare (Turner), a journalist sniffing around doing a profile on their financial exploits. Within minutes, Anthony and Jennifer are flirting and it’s obvious their innocent exchanges are going to blossom into full-blown adoration. At least, Frizzell doesn’t try to hide it. Cut to present day London, where print journalist Ellie Haworth (Jones) is reeling from a break-up and eager for an assignment to drown her sorrows.
She stumbles upon a treasure trove of love letters Anthony had written to Jennifer over the years following an automobile accident that rendered her with amnesia. This sends Ellie on a wild goose chase to track down the authors and perhaps reconnect the star-crossed lovers while contending with her own suitor, a lowly newspaper archivist named Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). It’s all gooey and glossy as all romantic period pieces are and Frizzel understands the expectations put upon this genre, but she can’t keep events from slipping into “Days of Our Lives” and dramatic readers theater territory.
Jones seems plucky and engaged with the material enough whereas Woodley looks distressed in her timeline without much leverage or willpower to conjure a silver of emotion. Even the steamy make out sessions lack passion. Strange coming from a filmmaker whose previous directorial effort was bursting with manic energy and didn’t feel like a slog. Return to sender, please.
THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER is now streaming on Netflix