Why do I love thee, Juliet? Let me count the ways: there are no decapitations, no car crashes, no gun fights, no pratfalls, no terminal diseases, no talking animals and no aliens – just one beautiful love story, two captivating romances and oodles of picturesque Northern Italian scenery.
The journey begins in Manhattan, where wannabe writer Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is a sensible, super-efficient fact-checker at New Yorker magazine. She’s off on a prenuptial trip to Verona with her exuberant, self-absorbed restaurateur fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), who becomes so obsessed with the food and wine that he ignores her, leaving her to search out Casa di Giulietta. So Sophie’s joins a group of ‘Juliet’ volunteers who answer the letters from lovelorn ladies that are left each day under the balcony in the Capulet courtyard of Shakespeare’s most famous young heroine. Tucked behind a brick, Sophie finds a faded 50 year-old missive from Claire, a sorrowful British exchange student who fell in love with a local boy, Lorenzo Bartolini, but fled in fear. Soon after receiving Sophie’s sensitive response, widowed-but-still fervent Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) arrives in Verona, escorted by her stuffy, skeptical grandson (Christopher Egan), hoping to find her long-lost Lorenzo. Fascinated, Sophie joins their poignant quest through the sun-dappled hill towns of Tuscany.
Directed by Gary Winick (“13 Going on 30,” “Charlotte’s Web,” “Bride Wars”) from a script by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan, augmented by Marco Pontecorvo’s expert cinematography, the deliciously old-fashioned, yet refreshingly humorous contemporary romance is not only totally satisfying but features the real, off-screen love of Vanessa Redgrave’s life, Franco Nero, the Lancelot to her Guenevere in “Camelot” (1967). Ingenuous Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia,” “Dear John,” “Chloe” and HBO’s “Big Love”) is superb, while septuagenarian Vanessa Redgrave is sublime and Christopher Egan evokes memories of fellow Aussie Heath Ledger.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Letters to Juliet” is an irresistibly enchanting 8. Guys, if you take your gal to see this little gem, you’ll win her heart. And it’s cheaper than tickets on Alitalia.