Looking for Lorenzo
Nice, it is the only word I have to describe "Letters to Juliet" because whilst it has a nice look, a nice story, nice characters and some nice performances the outcome is sadly just nice. Now nice is not bad, and "Letters to Juliet" is a pleasant, sometimes clever and often fun romantic comedy but I just felt it didn't reach its full potential. The laughs are never quite as funny as they could be, the romance in some cases not as romantic as it could be and the characters, well unfortunately there is one which just ended up being too false and spoilt things. But if what you are looking for is a bit of romantic fun set in picturesque Italy and in particular the area surrounding Verona well "Letters to Juliet" will hit the mark.
Whilst on holiday with her fiancee Victor (Gael García Bernal) in Verona, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried - Dear John) discovers the "Secretaries of Juliet" who respond to all the love letters which are left at the wall by Juliet's balcony. Offering to help as Victor is busy off food and wine tasting, Sophie discovers a 50 year old letter hidden in the wall and responds to it as Juliet. To her surprise Claire (Vanessa Redgrave - Atonement) who wrote the letter receives her response and with her grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) show up in Verona. Together all three set out to find her Lorenzo (Franco Nero), the man who 50 years earlier Claire had fallen in love with but had to leave when she returned to England.
Now I have to say that whilst there are aspects to "Letters to Juliet" that end up cliche and forced the actual storyline is nicely thought out. There is something simply beautiful about the idea that Sophie would find a letter to Juliet which is 50 years old and respond to it, in fact the whole idea of the women who respond to the letters left outside Juliet's balcony in Verona is lovely. And what follows as Claire and her grandson Charlie show up following Sophie's reply looking for her Lorenzo from 50 years ago is a beautiful romantic gesture.
Now this initial set up leads the way for some quirky Italian fun as Claire, Charlie and Sophie try and track down Claire's Lorenzo, going from one possible Lorenzo to another in the hope that old passion will be reignited. It may be a little stereotypical as we meet a variety of quirky characters from priests to married men with nagging Italian wives but it is still amusing. And it is also touching as the possibilities dwindle and it seems that maybe Claire's Lorenzo has passed on. But it is also romantically touching, especially thanks to the talents of Vanessa Redgrave who does a wonderful job of selling every encounter she has with a man who shares the same name as her loved one.
Now alongside this we have the cliche starting with the fact that Sophie is on holiday in Verona with food obsessed Victor who is so into food and wine he fails to pay her attention. Then there is the posh and rude Charlie who is no means a romantic, as the women who write the letters from Juliet say, he is typically English being cold and unromantic. And if you couldn't guess not only does the romance of Italy rub off on Charlie but he and Sophie end up falling for each other. In many ways it is cheesy, in fact in most ways it is cheesy but thankfully the true romance of Claire looking for Lorenzo manages to keep you entertained.
But the trouble is that whilst "Letters to Juliet" is set in the most beautiful country in the world and we get one fabulous shot of Italy after another, be it in Verona or out in the country something is missing. That something is heart because the whole romantic storyline surrounding Charlie and Sophie feels to text book and forced, which is a shame as the romance of Claire looking for Lorenzo is beautiful and natural. It means that you can have a really beautiful scene followed by one which lacks naturalness and is too orchestrated.
Part of the reason why "Letters to Juliet" fails is down to Christopher Egan as Charlie because the whole poshness of his character and his anti love stand is so forced that it feels cheesy. It really needed to be more natural and it has the knock on effect of making the romance with Sophie feel cliche. Talking of which Amanda Seyfried does do a nice job of playing Sophie, having the efficiency of a fact finder but also the heart of a true romantic. But the star of the movie is Vanessa Redgrave who is so natural that you fall in love with her and hope that she finds her Lorenzo. In many ways it is because Redgrave is so good that "Letters to Juliet" does get you feeling a little romantic. And what a great bit of casting to have Redgrave's husband Franco Nero as Lorenzo because it adds something to the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Letters to Juliet" ends up being a bit of a mixed bag because the Vanessa Redgrave side of the story is truly wonderful but then the whole romance side between Sophie and Charlie is too ordinary leaving it a nice, pleasant little romantic movie which doesn't quite live up to its potential.