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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Letters to Juliet

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Gael Garcia Bernal and Amanda Seyfried star in a scene from the movie "Letters to Juliet."
"Letters to Juliet" (Summit) is a good-humored, old-fashioned, multigenerational romantic comedy—set against the backdrop of a picturesque Italian travelogue—that will have daughters, mothers, and grandmothers pondering the same question: "Does true love have an expiration date?"

Our heroine is Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a fact-checker for The New Yorker magazine and an aspiring writer who travels to Italy with her fiance, Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a chef who is opening a new restaurant. They land in Verona, the "City of Lovers," where the spirit of Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet"—which takes place there—still looms large.

When food-obsessed Victor sets off in search of the perfect truffle, Sophie is left to explore the town on her own. She visits the house traditionally identified as Juliet Capulet's, complete with the famous balcony, and discovers a kind of Wailing Wall for the amorous, where lovesick women leave letters seeking relationship advice. These missives are answered by the ladies of the "Club di Giulietta," who take Sophie under their wing.

Sophie finds a 50-year-old letter hidden in the wall by an Englishwoman named Claire, and decides to answer it.

Only days later, Claire—all grown up into the luminous Vanessa Redgrave—returns to Verona, determined to find Lorenzo, her one true love of a half-century ago. She bonds with Sophie, much to the chagrin of her skeptical grandson, Charlie (Christopher Egan), and the unlikely trio sets off on their mission, determined to succeed despite the dozens of phony Lorenzos who cross their path.

The picture-perfect views of the Italian countryside and of magnificent cities such as Siena are a major bonus of "Letters to Juliet" and fit the ultra-romantic tone of the film.

Will Claire be reunited with her Lorenzo? Will Sophie's fiance find her more interesting than Italian cuisine? Is there a romantic heart beating inside Charlie's cold exterior? Put it this way: "Letters to Juliet" ends a lot more happily than Shakespeare's play, and in a manner worthy of a Harlequin romance novel.

Directed by Gary Winick ("Bride Wars," "Charlotte's Web"), "Letters to Juliet" is one of those rare contemporary Hollywood films that explore—in a respectful and sincere way—time-honored themes of love, family, loss and destiny. Apart from the elements mentioned below, moreover, this is a generally wholesome film that can be enjoyed by most family members.

The film contains an implied premarital relationship and a brief obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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