The wide-eyed Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, Ted 2) plays New York wannabe writer Sophie who’s engaged to a very distracted chef, leaving her to largely fill her own time. She heads off to Italy to enjoy her last days of freedom whilst he keeps working and largely ignoring her.
When she gets to Verona and starts poking around she stumbles upon the balcony made famous in Romeo and Juliet - Juliet’s Balcony. Here, women looking for love write letters to the (fictitious) Juliet and pin them to the wall under the balcony. These letters are collected up at the end of each day by a gaggle of women called the ‘Secretaries of Juliet’ and they proceed to write a reply to each of them and mail it to them.
Sniffing a story to write about she recruits herself to the team and starts to help them. In the process, she pulls out a brick from the wall and behind it is a letter that was left there 50 years previous and was never answered. This then becomes the focus of the story as she replies to the letter and invokes the old lady, played beautifully by Vanessa Redgrave (I can’t even begin to list the highlights of her career and millions of films since 1958), to visit with her handsome, attentive and available grandson. You can see where this is going!
At this stage, the film turns very much into RomCom territory and the male lead could easily have been Hugh Grant, Jude Law or Colin Firth - you get the idea! The formula for chick-flick is hugely in attendance as we move forward and love blossoms for all and sundry in the cast!
The quest for the old woman is to try and track down the man, subject of the letter, 50 years on, and to see if love conquers time and distance! The cast do fairly well within this structure, though as you can imagine, nobody is really stretched. Seyfried is cutesy and the audience soon gets onboard with the agenda of wanting something more for her than the half-hearted experience she’s involved with in the chef. You really can guess the rest - including a sprinkling of parallels with Shakespeare's work!
The Italian countryside is nicely shot and settings well handled from producer cum director Gary Winick. Given that, as you might expect, the production is good and script tight enough for the purpose. Redgrave steals the show of course showing all around her how to act, but it’s also obvious that she’s also having a laugh with it!
I’m not going to overtly criticise a film that will bring such enjoyment to so many even if for others, a vomit-bowl might be handy! A cracking Sunday afternoon RomCom. For the girls. Woops - did I say that?!
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