On the back of the interminably dull Bride Wars director Gary Winick returns with Letters To Juliet, a conventional romantic comedy that frequently resorts to cliché, stereotype and sentimentality of the worst variety.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) is an aspiring journalist on the verge of getting married to Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) who is more concerned with the impending opening of his restaurant. In a bid to spend more time together before they get hitched they embark on a “pre-honeymoon” vacation to picture postcard Verona. In religious adherence to the formulaic requirements of the romcom things naturally go awry when Victor is distracted by the demands of his business, preferring to roam the Tuscan countryside in search of fine wines and local delicacies. Feeling shunned by her fiancé Sophie wanders off to explore Verona on her lonesome, inevitably encountering Juliet’s wall where heart broken souls from all over the world come to post letters in hope of finding an answer to their romantic conundrums.
Spotting a mysterious woman collecting the correspondence she decides to follow her and discovers a collective of ‘secretaries’ doggedly responding to every single piece of mail. Having befriended the women she returns to the wall and discovers an unanswered letter dating back to 1957. Sophie replies and soon enough Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) turns up with her posh – and therefore stuffy – grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) in search of the letter’s author.
Quickly spying an opportunity to further her career Sophie persuades Claire, against Charlie’s wishes, to embark on a journey to find her Lorenzo whom she ditched all those years ago and has lived to regret ever since. Unsurprisingly Sophie and Charlie forge a bond upsetting the former’s impending wedding and all manner of complications ensue.
The most puzzling aspect of Letters To Juliet is the enviable quality of its cast; Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero all feature in roles that come nowhere near to matching their respective talents. The wide berth in ability between the aforementioned trio and their hammy counterparts is so overwhelming that it cannot help but throw the film completely off balance.
Overly reliant on montage sequences where the majority of the character development takes place in soundtracked car interiors and hampered by uninspired dialogue (Bernal speaks solely in superlatives) the film just about limps over the finishing line exhausted by its own triteness and predictability. In order to force Sophie and Charlie together in their unconvincing tryst the latter undergoes a personality transplant in the second act, inexplicably altering his prudish demeanour to one of love-sick puppy that will cause many an audience to uncontrollably wretch.