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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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