UAE Review: The Last Love Letter From Your Lover
Going OTT with binges
If you are feeling particularly sappy and tired of crusty, hard-headed realities, then The Last Love Letter From Your Lover may be a great antidote. It doesn’t try to be practical or even logical, so practise a willing suspension of disbelief at will… and don’t forget to put on those rose-tinted glasses as you settle into the couch.
The story follows the lives of two women in London. Ellie (Felicity Jones, who I last watched in the marvellous The Theory of Everything) is a present-day journalist who chances upon a series of unopened love letters in the library while researching content for an obituary. Her interest is stoked when she realises they are products of an “illicit” love story from the 1960s, where the man is pleading with the woman — an unhappily married ‘society’ lady with whom he’s had a relationship — to elope with him to New York. Clearly, the letters never reached the woman, which makes Ellie wonder about the outcome of the love story. Did they get a happily ever after? Or did they go on to live a half-life of compromise?
Simultaneously, we get a glimpse into the life of Jennifer (Shailene Woodley) — the 60s’ woman — and how she came to meet the love of her life, Anthony, and what happened thereafter. As the movie flits from one time period to the other, Ellie figures out, after doing due diligence, that there’s a half chance both lovers may still be alive even though it has been more than 50 years since the last time they were locked in embrace. A lot of water seems to have flown under the bridge, she isn’t sure what exactly transpired in their lives, and whether (or not) they want to — or will be able to — see each other again.
Even though The Last Love Letter From Your Lover is as cliched as they come (chance encounters laden with serendipity; ill-timed accidents, a la An Affair to Remember; a convenient — or inconvenient, take your pick — bout of amnesia; gaslighting husbands… the list goes on), there is a smattering of unconventional clutters: the journalist struggling to get over a past relationship with the help of shortlived flings even as she gets attracted to an oddball library curator, who soon becomes her sounding board and gateway to comprehension of life’s imponderables. Then there’s Jennifer, trapped in a bad marriage of ‘social convenience’, yet being unorthodox enough to pursue her own heart in an age that held you ransom to correctitude. And the overall non-judgementality of the narrative when things come to a head, never mind the occasional lapses into protocol.
Don’t watch this for sense; do watch it for sensibility. The upper-class London of 1960s is captured in vivid shades. There’s a little getaway to the French Riviera to muddle the morality. There’s a broad hint at female emancipation. The honour of chivalry. All of these make The Last Letter From Your Lover a sweet, sentimental watch, like you are almost inhabiting a different time zone (even though one part of it plays out in the now). Special shoutout to the absolutely fabulous Ben Cross, who plays Anthony’s older version. I wish there was more of him to hold on to: he passed away last year after shooting for this film while he was being treated for cancer.