Photo: ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’/Netflix
After the discovery of a misplaced love letter, while researching for a feature piece, a journalist Ellie (Felicity Jones) goes on the hunt to uncover an illicit love affair from the 1960s in London. The letters take the viewer back in time and we learn about Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) as she tries to piece back together her life after an accident wiped her memory. As Jennifer discovers the letters herself for the first time in the past, so does Ellie in the basement of a newspaper firm along with the help of a rule-following archivist Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). This beautiful film, based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, grabs the hearts of viewers and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. I’d be lying if I said no tears fell from my eyes at the end.
‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ – Transcending Through Time
Many films play with the aspect of time and go back and forth between storylines. Making sure that the viewer does not get lost or confused about what is taking place during that particular moment is key to executing that film. ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ does an excellent job in not only making sure that the viewer is grounded in every moment but also exploring the past and future between two storylines not in chronological order. Though it’s easy to tell whether or not we are in the 1960s or the present time of 2020 because of the spectacular difference of set design and costume, there must still be a perfect balance to not spend too much time in one place.
The editing does a seamless job of hopping through time with beautiful transitions. For example, as the elevator closes Ellie and Rory together in the present time, it is then cut with Jennifer opening up the curtains in the 1960s. The viewer’s eyes accept this change in scenery with the same time of motion rather than a jarring cut. Since we see something close that our brains know will open again at some point, the curtains opening satisfies the same feeling of the elevator opening. Now it isn’t necessary to see the elevator doors open and we know that they did. This is done throughout the film and there are no times of confusion of where we are in time even though the story spans forty years.
A wonderful aspect of this film is that it has not one, but two leading ladies as we follow their journey of self-discovery and healing from loss. Though they couldn’t be any more different from one another, they still hold the same values and independence which connects them together. Jennifer, a prim and proper wife, takes part in a deeply emotional love affair with a journalist Anthony (Callum Turner) while Ellie, a messy and blunt journalist, puts all her time and effort into her work rather than healing herself from a tough break-up. Their choice of language is a clear flag of difference as Ellie utters swear words and Jennifer rather speaks eloquently constantly.
This film is great at showing the “standards” of what women are expected to act like and how they are supposed to speak. Jennifer being controlled by her husband is juxtaposed with Ellie interacting with men and how she wants nothing more than being alone for a moment. ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ is directed by Augustine Frizzell and she also directed ‘Never Goin’ Back’ which featured two female leads. She knows the importance of having strong female characters in lead roles rather than hyper-focusing on the men.
Romanticizing The Past
There is a similar theme that Hollywood loves to go with and that is romanticizing the past decades. There is always some truth in the matter of making set design and costume more accurate to the time, but this film takes it a step further. It makes sense to take the extra time to perfect the past, but not as much time is spent on the present. Taking the present times for granted including fashion, architecture and even furniture is a bit disappointing to see. Though this statement is not limited to this film, it would interesting to see the same romanticizing of present-day technology before it becomes a part of the past.
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Even the cinematography itself is taken to another level when the storyline switches to Jennifer. There are more art-focused shots as if they are paintings rather than when in the present with Ellie. It could be that Hollywood is trying to capture a time that wasn’t appreciated and emphasized during the time it was happening or we are constantly searching for something that we feel have lost now.
Love Is Forever
Love is something that will always and has always been around and people will do anything to hunt for that feeling. That is the point of this film, that love will always transcend through time and it will only transform into other emotions, but never fully go away. There are two beautiful scenes in this film, one taken in the past with Jennifer and the other in the present with Ellie. They both are dancing in a crowded club with a romantic interest. The music, scenery, and dance moves are different, but something always stays the same… the love felt. There is a transformation that takes place and feelings shift when two people dance together. It was a wonderful example of no matter how much time goes by, love will always be cherished by people.
Netflix’s ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ is a charming romance with a hint of mystery that keeps viewers hooked from the moment it starts. Wonderful performances by Jones and Woodley along with secondary characters that grab hearts as well. Keep the tissues nearby for this one!
Where to Watch
‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ can be streamed on Netflix here. Shailene Woodley’s next project is set to come out in 2022 directed by Damián Szifron and titled ‘Misanthrope’. Felicity Jone’s is set to star in a thriller titled ‘Borderland’ that is still in pre-production.
By Jack Colin
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Jack Colin is a playwright and screenwriter with an immense love for film & television which drives him to learn from and share his passion with anyone willing to listen. Living life as a trans man, Jack wants his writing to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and share the positive stories that are so often ignored through his work at The Hollywood Insider, he is eager to give readers a confident outlook on life. The storytellers of the world are the ones who decide what happiness can be. Jack takes pride in The Hollywood Insider’s mission statement to stray away from gossip and to lift up voices in entertainment with supportive and meaningful stories that will promote strength and unity.