By Joseph McAleer
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — "Letters to Juliet" (Summit) is a good-humored, old-fashioned, multigenerational romantic comedy — set against the backdrop of a picturesque Italian travelogue — that will have daughters, mothers, and grandmothers pondering the same question: "Does true love have an expiration date?"
Our heroine is Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a fact-checker for The New Yorker magazine and an aspiring writer who travels to Italy with her fiance, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a chef who is opening a new restaurant. They land in Verona, the "City of Lovers," where the spirit of Shakespeare’s tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" — which takes place there — still looms large.
When food-obsessed Victor sets off in search of the perfect truffle, Sophie is left to explore the town on her own. She visits the house traditionally identified as Juliet Capulet’s, complete with the famous balcony, and discovers a kind of Wailing Wall for the amorous, where lovesick women leave letters seeking relationship advice. These missives are answered by the ladies of the "Club di Giulietta," who take Sophie under their wing.
Sophie finds a 50-year-old letter hidden in the wall by an Englishwoman named Claire, and decides to answer it.
Only days later, Claire — all grown up into the luminous Vanessa Redgrave — returns to Verona, determined to find Lorenzo, her one true love of a half-century ago. She bonds with Sophie, much to the chagrin of her skeptical grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), and the unlikely trio sets off on their mission, determined to succeed despite the dozens of phony Lorenzos who cross their path.
The picture-perfect views of the Italian countryside and of magnificent cities such as Siena are a major bonus of "Letters to Juliet" and fit the ultra-romantic tone of the film.
Will Claire be reunited with her Lorenzo? Will Sophie’s fiance find her more interesting than Italian cuisine? Is there a romantic heart beating inside Charlie’s cold exterior? Put it this way: "Letters to Juliet" ends a lot more happily than Shakespeare’s play, and in a manner worthy of a Harlequin romance novel.
Directed by Gary Winick ("Bride Wars," "Charlotte’s Web"), "Letters to Juliet" is one of those rare contemporary Hollywood films that explore — in a respectful and sincere way — time-honored themes of love, family, loss and destiny. Apart from the elements mentioned below, moreover, this is a generally wholesome film that can be enjoyed by most family members.
The film contains an implied premarital relationship and a brief obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.