As soon as Netflix’s new romance, The Last Letter From Your Lover, begins with a pretentious Ernest Hemmingway quote, a red flag is raised. From here, things only get worse, as director Augustine Frizzell attempts to cross-stitch two different time periods as if crafting Netflix’s version of The Notebook. The biggest issue is that it feels too familiar and echoes narrative beats we have seen countless times before. Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes, whose Me Before You had a terrific adaptation back in 2016, The Last Letter From Your Lover is too simple and predictable for its own good.
Set in both the past and present, the first (and far more intriguing timeline) sets the action in 1965 London. Jennifer Stirling (Shailene Woodley), the wife of stuffy but wealthy industrialist Laurence (Joe Alwyn), is languishing in her marriage. Laurence is distant and unloving, and the two do not have children together. What a perfect proposition for the age-old love triangle trope, eh? Enter: the gorgeous, dashing financial journalist assigned to cover Laurence’s story, Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner). In present day, writer Ellie (Felicity Jones) is covering a feature on the longest-serving women’s editor, when she stumbles upon a treasure trove of passionate love letters between Jennifer and Anthony. As she gets swept up in their whirlwind relationship, Ellie blossoms all on her own as the past defines her present.
It is part Julie & Julia, part The Notebook, and in the final act evolves into 2010’s equally uninspired Letters to Juliet. The Last Letter From Your Lover is at least significantly better than Juliet, carried specifically by the strengths of the scenery and the chemistry between Woodley and Turner. Jennifer starts falling more in love with Anthony as the two go the beach and hang out. All the tension and movement is smothered from thriving, when we are forced to go back to Ellie and her courtship with an archival guy helping her to uncover more letters. The modern-day storyline is rather boring, and plainly pales in comparison to the sweeping romance of the letters and 60’s setting.
Ultimately, the conclusion is too schmaltzy and predictable to accomplish anything either emotionally stimulating or romantically enticing. There are many other options, especially in the age of streaming, if you are looking to get your heart-eyed fix. Had the focus been primarily on Jennifer and Anthony O’Hare, you would have a stronger and richer experience all around. I am sure the issues lie more with the melodramatic text than in the scripting duties, though judging it solely as a movie, The Last Letter From Your Lover should be marked ‘return to sender.’
The Last Letter From Your Lover writes to you on Netflix, this Friday, July 23rd.