It’s rare that we see Gael Garcia Bernal phone it in, but he gladly does so in Letters to Juliet, the new cornball romantic tale from Summit Entertainment. But even if the film is no challenge for an actor of Garcia Bernal’s caliber, you can’t really stay mad at him. In the end, all Letters to Juliet wants you to do is revert back to your teenage self and believe, for all of its 105 minutes, that love of the Shakespearean variety does indeed exist (and in order to find it, you’ve got to go to Verona, Italy). And who doesn’t want to do that?
The adorable Amanda Seyfried, who has gained a whole lot of visibility lately, plays Sophie, a fact-checker (and aspiring writer) for The New Yorker who heads to Verona with her restaurateur boyfriend Victor (Garcia Bernal). But what is supposed to be the most romantic vacation of their relationship ends up really being an excuse for a work trip, during which Victor is always preoccupied with matters related to his soon-to-open New York eatery. So while he’s tasting wine and meeting with investors, Sophie is left to wander the streets of Verona (how unfortunate, right?) and inadvertently stumbles into an old courtyard where Shakespeare’s most famous fictional couple used to recite unforgettable verses to each other. It is here that a group of women who call themselves the “Secretaries to Juliet” collect and answer letters left by lovers from all over the world, seeking advice. When Sophie finds a 50-year-old missive that was never answered, she sets out to unite the two lovers mentioned in it—an English girl and the Italian farmer she stood up the day they were supposed to run away together. Enter the lovely and talented Vanessa Redgrave, as Claire, a now-septuagenarian who receives a letter from Sophie and comes straight to Verona, intent on becoming reunited with her one true love (which of course she does, and it ends up being none other than her real-life Italian husband, actor Franco Nero!).
The movie turns slightly more exciting once Aussie Christopher Egan shows up on the screen as Claire’s haughty grandson Charlie, whom she brings on this life-altering journey. Though a clumsy actor, he’s cute enough to hold it together as Sophie’s romantic interest toward the middle to end of the movie.
If you liked Mamma Mia!—and plenty of people did—you’ll surely dig Letters to Juliet.
Letters to Juliet had its world premiere at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and opens in the US on May 14.