Love is patient; love is kind…
1 Corinthians 13:4a
Children write letters to Santa Claus, some even to God. In this romantic tale women seeking advice in matters of the heart write to Juliet. Yes, that Juliet, made famous by Shakespeare—though one might wonder why they would seek her advice, given what she did to herself. Some will find director Gary Winick’s tale set in the golden light of the Italian landscape as hopelessly romantic, escapist, and predictable. It is all of this, so if you tend to be cynical, stay away. However, those who want to leave the theater smiling and feeling good about life and its possibilities, by all means should go, preferably in the company of someone you hold dear. The audience probably will be a large and expressive one—the one at the screening I attended laughed often and applauded at the end.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a would-be writer works at the New Yorker Magazine as a fact checker. She and her fiancé Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal) travel to Italy, supposedly on a combined business and pre-honeymoon trip to Verona, Romeo and Juliet’s home town. However, Victor, about to open his own restaurant in Manhattan, becomes so absorbed in the business end of the trip that he forgets the pre-honeymoon part. He finds it difficult to understand why Sophia is not enthused at visiting wineries, noodle makers, and wine auctions. Thus when she finds other things to do in the city, he is relieved and delighted, calling their going separate their ways a “win-win.” In the courtyard of the fictional lovers Sophie watches as women, some of them with tears in their eyes, post letters on the wall. Intrigued when, at the end of the day, a woman takes the letters down and places them in a basket, she follows her, discovering that there is a small group of romantic ladies calling themselves “The Secretaries of Juliet.” They attempt to answer all of the letters in the voice of Romeo’s beloved. Sophia later finds, when she dislodges a stone in the wall, a letter written 50 years earlier by a woman from England. Encouraged by the friendly group, she answers the note.
Before we realize it, Charlie (Christopher Egan), grandson of an Englishwoman who fell in love with a young Italian named Lorenzo but returned home without following through on her love, shows up. He rudely rebukes her for putting ideas into his grandmother’s head that can only lead to disappointment. Sophia follows him and meets Claire Smith (Vanessa Redgrave), the grandmother who, it turns out, had raised him following the death of his parents when he was a little boy. Claire very much wants to go in search of the man who had touched her heart so many years ago, To Charlie’s dismay, she is happy to have Sophie accompany them in the search. Turns out she will need the young woman’s skill as a fact checker, as there are over 70 Lorenzos in the area to look up. You can guess what will happen between Charlie and Claire, and whether or not Claire will find her lost love amidst all the Lorenzo’s, most of whom are only too glad to claim that they are the ones she is seeking.
1. Given its predictability, what surprises did you find in the film?
2. With which character, if any, did you identify? What motivates them?
3. What moments of grace do you see in the film? Such as “The Secretaries of Juliet” themselves.
4. What do you think of Sophie’s letter when it is read aloud? What “What ifs” are there in your life? Did you follow them up, or wish that you had?
5. The characters do not mention God but do talk of “Destiny.” How might they understand this as a power beyond themselves?