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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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