A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic drama is an inoffensive, light and fluffy romance for tweens and teens. There is very little to object to -- just a couple of kisses, witty, flirtatious banter, and some tame references to romance, love, and love-making. Language wise, there's one "s--t" but that's about it, except for British words like "blasted" and "bollocks," as well some grown-ups enjoying a glass of wine or champagne in social situations. The messages center around distinguishing true everlasting love, which the movie claims will never die. The protagonist, a young journalist, is encouraged to take a risk with her career, but it takes a guy (and an elderly lady's long-lost love) to convince her to believe in herself.
What's the story?
Sophie Hall (Amanda Seyfried) is a hard-working fact-checker at The New Yorker, but she'd rather be one of its writers. She heads off to Verona, Italy for a pre-wedding honeymoon with her fiance Victor (Gael Garcia Bernal), a busy chef who'd rather schmooze around with his about-to-open restaurant's wine, cheese, and olive oil suppliers than sight-see with his future wife. Having agreed to do their own thing, Sophie wanders into the touristy house of Shakespeare's Juliet, where she sees lovesick women of all ages writing letters and sticking them into a stone wall. She discovers that a quartet of Italian women dubbed "Secretaries of Juliet" answer every letter placed on the wall, and while helping them gather letters, she discovers a very old one written by a British woman named Claire (Vanessa Redgrave). Sophie writes a heartfelt response and a few days later, Claire and her skeptical grandson Charlie (Christopher Egan) arrive in Verona to embark on a journey to find her long-lost love Lorenzo. Tagging along, Sophie develops a love-hate chemistry with Charlie, while they continue to search for Claire's Lorenzo.
Is it any good?
With lesser actors, this fairy-tale romance would be borderline unwatchable. It's ridiculously cheesy and predictable -- from the moment Charlie (played by the compelling English actor who starred in the short-lived, high-concept drama Kings) enters the Secretaries of Juliet office, it's obvious he and Sophie will do what every cinematic couple who meets-cute does -- fall head over heels for each other. The movie manages to make Garcia Bernal, usually one of the most charismatic and appealing actors, look like he's more of a best friend than a fiance, and it's difficult to buy. There's nothing particularly magnetic about Charlie and Sophie's attraction, and in fact, the most spark in the story is between Claire and Lorenzo, which is understandable, considering the actor, Franco Nero, who's Redgrave's real-life husband.
Seyfried's considerable charm, coupled with Redgrave, and the Romeo & Juliet theme save this otherwise underwhelming romantic comedy from the waste bin. The irresistible Italian locations are more alluring than the storyline, and when the Italian soundtrack kicks in, the movie starts to seem like an extended travel show. There really is a group of 15 women who reply to the lovelorn letters to Juliet, and it wouldn't be surprising if there's an upsurge in letters and heartsick visitors to Verona. This is definitely not the love story of the ages, but it's sugary sweet, and just the kind of predictable fluff young girls will appreciate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's overall message about about first love? Do you think teenagers often feel like their love stories will last the test of time? What's the reality?
What is the difference between Sophie's relationship with Victor and her relationship with Charlie? How is one shown as preferential to the other?
Sophie says her perfectionism keeps her from finishing her stories. What's different about the "Letters to Juliet" story? What helps Sophie muster up the courage to submit her work? Do you think this movie portrays Sophie as powerful on her own, or dependant on others? Is this typical of romantic movies?
- In theaters: May 14, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: September 14, 2010
- Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave
- Director: Gary Winick
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: brief rude behavior, some language and incidental smoking
For kids who love romance
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.