Actress-director Augustine Frizzell brings a poignant and heartfelt love story to the plate in the romantic drama film ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover.’ The time-traversing story revolves around Ellie, an inquisitive journalist, who comes to find a treasure trove of eloquent love letters in the archives of her office. The act of reading the letters plunges Ellie deep into a tragic story of parted lovers. Taking cues from the letters themselves, Ellie single-handedly takes it upon herself to reunite the lovers. In the meantime, Ellie comes closer to the archive manager Rory, and they spark off a relationship.
The story is beautifully woven, and the ending of the movie gives way to euphoria. Famed actors Felicity Jones and Shailene Woodley bring the story to life, and a talented cast ensemble backs them up. At times somber and uplifting, the movie becomes a real tear-jerker by the time the story reaches the climax. Naturally, many of you may want to know the origin of the story and whether it is tethered to reality. In that case, let us probe into the matter.
Is The Last Letter from Your Lover Based on A True Story?
No, ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ is not based on a true story. However, the theme of unfulfilled love resonates with many, thus endowing the story with universal significance. The film is a cinematic adaptation of the titular book by English journalist-turned-author Jojo Moyes. The book was first published in 2008, and more than a decade later, Augustine Frizzell gave a grand cinematic makeover to the convoluted source material. The novel is written in epistolary form (through letters), and the director had some obvious difficulties presenting the story in the visual form.
Another adaptation of one of the author’s novels, namely ‘Me Before You,’ became a breakout success upon its release in 2016. Frizzell made her mark in the industry in 2018 through her feature debut film, the indie comedy titled ‘Never Goin’ Back.’ In ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover,’ two creative minds seemingly come together to create its magical ambiance. The adaptation was in the talks for a while, and then production house Blueprint Pictures came along to back the project.
Poet-screenwriter Esta Spalding made the first draft of the screenplay, while British playwright Nick Payne gave the final touches. While Frizzell possibly could not compress every little incident of the book in the cinematic medium, she attempted to retain the book’s spirit. The director decided to go all-out romantic on this one. The character of Ellie was updated from the 2000s to the 2020s, but she retained her indomitable character essence.
To simplify the labyrinthine structure of the story, the film also shortens the storyline of Laurence and omits some details from the source material. However, the director manages to keep him charming despite his flaws, as Joe Alwyn of ‘Harriet’ fame delivers a commendable performance in the role. Visually, the director drew inspiration from several romantic films. In an interview, Frizzell revealed that she referred to some classic films of the genre, including black-and-white ventures like ‘Brief Encounter’ and ‘Casablanca.’
The Riviera scenes were inspired by early French classics like ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ and René Clément’s saucy crime thriller ‘Purple Noon.’ Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Phantom Thread’ proved to be a major visual reference for the interior of Jennifer’s house. The color palette attracts the eyes of the viewer and creates a dreamy ambiance throughout the movie. The director wanted soft and bright colors, and the night scenes are often illuminated by neon lights, creating a luminescent chiaroscuro effect. For the color palette, Frizzell took ideas from the late photographer Slim Aarons.
Another major influence was the modern classic romance drama ‘Notting Hill.’ There is an amusing scene in the movie where Nabhaan Rizwan’s Rory does not allow Ellie to take her food and drinks into the archive room, and she eats the whole croissant while standing in the doorway and maintaining eye contact with Rory. The scene was not initially in the script and was improvised on the spot. The director was brainstorming with her husband, David Lowery, and that is when the hilarious idea struck them.
The film, as the book, deals with troubled relationships and less-than-perfect people. Rather than shying away, it celebrates its flawed protagonists through relentless tenderness and empathy. Back in the day, many stigmas presupposed the thought of divorce, but now more people are coming forward to make their own choices in life. At this juncture, ‘The Last Letter from Your Lover’ ushers in a new progressive thought that is truly liberating in scope.