There’s something almost manipulative about Jojo Moyes (and Nicholas Sparks) novels. They play with your emotions and know exactly which heart strings to tug at. Not to mention the devoted followings to these and other similar novels. People who love the rush of seeing the main characters unite (ideally in the middle of the street while it’s raining) or revel in the heartbreak of two star-crossed lovers thwarted by a cosmic misstep. These stories are ripe for cinematic interpretation and the movie adaptations have achieved varying levels of success so far. The latest of the genre is The Last Letter from Your Lover, an adaptation of Moyes’ novel of the same name, directed by Augustine Frizzell.
In The Last Letter from Your Lover we alternate between the 1960s and present-day London where two young women are navigating love in their respective eras. Ellie Haworth (Felicity Jones) is a journalist introduced to us after a one-night stand, next to a man whose name she doesn’t know, with the requisite morning after smudged eyeliner to inform us that she is an unlucky in love 30-something. Back in the ‘60s, Jennifer Stirling ()—an American married to a Brit—has just suffered an accident causing memory loss. Her husband’s (Joe Alwyn) cold attitude toward her indicates that the Stirlings are perhaps a marriage of convenience rather than love.
Ellie and Jennifer’s timelines become intertwined when Ellie discovers a set of old letters between two lovers engaged in an affair. Reading letter after letter, Ellie puts together a story of forbidden romance between a woman in a loveless marriage and a divorced single father recognizing true love. Ellie is compelled to learn what happened to the couple after reading the last of the letters, much like the audiences of the aforementioned Nicholas Sparks/Jojo Moyes-type films wanting to know what happens after the screen fades to black.
The love letters are, of course, between Jennifer and a suitor, Anthony O’Hare (Callum Turner). As Ellie uncovers each letter, we see how Jennifer and Anthony, a.k.a. Boot, meet, fall in love, and ultimately, how one is left at Marylebone train station heartbroken. Through Ellie’s journalistic prowess, she is able to track down Jennifer and Boot and solve the lovelorn mystery.
In the present day, Ellie is given a love story of her own to parallel that of Jennifer and Boot. In her case, it’s with her colleague, Rory (Nabhaan Rizwan). A lack of story development and chemistry between the two actors leaves much to be desired, although Jones and Rizwan do their best with what they’re given. Jennifer and Boot’s love story is tragic and even touching at times, but too often we are pulled away to watch Ellie and Rory awkwardly fumble their way through their unemotional romance. By trying to service two love stories, The Last Letter from Your Lover fails to adequately do justice to either.
Then there is the recurring issue of Netflix originals’ production quality, which hovers somewhere between studio-standard and made-for-TV movies. The fashion and makeup are lovely here and ‘60s London aesthetically rich, but The Last Letter from Your Lover is betrayed by some set pieces suitable for a weekend Hallmark film.
The Last Letter from Your Lover hits all of the beats we have come to expect from the genre, though it does so half-heartedly. Fans of Moyes will likely be entertained, but it’s a movie that will likely be forgotten after Netflix abruptly cuts from the credits and auto-plays a trailer in 9…8…7…6…
The Last Letter from Your Lover in available to stream on Netflix, and in theatres in the UK and Ireland starting August 6.