Letters to Juliet, written by Jose Rivera and Tom Sullivan, is one of the modern-day romantic comedies that deserves to stand in the echelons of classics. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael García Bernal, and Christopher Egan, among others, the film dives deep into the second chance trope with heartwarming performances that make it easy to escape to a world where the possibility of true love’s existence isn’t just a mere fantasy.
Romance as a genre is often criticized as too cheesy, but when done correctly, the characters move through the story organically, creating something inexplicably special for consumers. Sophie (Seyfried) is an aspiring writer who stumbles upon a “secretary” of women who respond to letters written at Juliet’s house in Verona, finding a lost letter that sends her on an adventure of a lifetime.
The romanticizing of first loves can be a bit redundant at times. We often focus on the good more than the bad, but there’s a reason these stories take the crown, and it’s because they genuinely resonate with people. More human beings don’t end up with their first love than people who do, and while it’s a blessing at times, it could also be a downfall. It’s why the second trope in Letters to Juliet works so well because it gives viewers an authentic viewpoint of various types of romance.
Believing in the idea that certain things (or people) are meant to be in our lives is where the beauty of the second chance trope lies. The beauty lies in the junctures where it becomes impossible for two people not to choose each other. The moment where no matter what the odds are against them, this time, the thing that’s returned is theirs to keep. Letters to Juliet succeeds not only in reuniting Claire and Lorenzo but it gives Sophie chances to find the pieces of her that have been missing. It gives Charlie another opportunity to love while simultaneously bringing together a family that expands due to a serendipitous discovery leading to a choice that changes everything.
The Second Chance Romance
Chief of all, Letters to Juliet is the love story of Claire and Lorenzo—fated mates torn apart by choice and reunited years later after the courage to keep searching. We don’t often see romance this late in life at the crux of the story, and of the films I’ve rewatched, Letters to Juliet honors the trope beautifully by allowing the characters to guide the story. It’s more realistic as a story that relies heavily on the actions that are taken. Claire isn’t waiting for something to happen, she’s actively taking steps to find the man she’s looking for.
When Claire decides that she’d like to give Lorenzo an explanation for not meeting him under their tree, the story kicks off by showcasing what it means to lose something you miss every day. Despite Claire’s happy marriage to her now late-husband, Lorenzo has been with her throughout her entire life, and through distinct elements of telling their story, the audience senses this.
Without flashbacks, it’s hard for the audience to see much of the relationship, but we essentially feel it through Vanessa Redgrave’s performances. We see the longing in her touching expressiveness as she recalls his “gentle blue eyes.” We feel it through her persistence, and we can see it through her child-like eagerness every time she knocks on a door or they get to a destination. Redgrave wears belief gracefully throughout the film as she harnesses Claire’s adoration for Lorenzo as a part of her being. There’s a wistful glimmer in her eyes every time the camera pans to her, allowing us to discern the weight of her longing and remorse.
There’s contentment brought on by the belief that when Lorenzo and Claire meet again, there’s a high chance they won’t let go of each other again. Much of this is due to the genre’s promise, but perhaps a portion of it is drawn by how the film frames the existence of true love. It exists, really and truly, for everyone—in due time. But unlike films released simultaneously, Letters to Juliet allows the characters to quietly guide the story to its climax. It’s one of the few films where simple statements are delivered so organically that it’s almost gut-wrenching. You feel the weight of Claire’s hope through the way she carries herself, but you also feel it in her words.
Sophie’s chance to experience the love of a motherly figure
Additionally, one of the most comforting details in the film is Claire’s loving warmth towards Sophie. From the moment she meets her, the genuine kindness that she radiates is unsurpassed, but when she learns that Sophie was abandoned by her mother, Claire chooses to adore her as though she were hers. I think a lot about the scene where Claire brushes Sophie’s hair and how Redgrave and Seyfried’s performances touch so poignantly on the detail that this is a comfort Sophie’s been missing in her life.
There’s such tenderness in their interactions that feels gorgeously natural. People don’t often bond this quickly, no matter the circumstances, but destiny has other plans every once in a while, and this story fits into that rarity. It was easy for Claire and Sophie to bond because there’s a belief in more significant things that’s shaped both of them, but simultaneously, it’s the warmth they both exude in everything they do. Claire tells Sophie, “an angel brought you to me,” but the same can be said for both women.
Sophie and Charlie’s relationship
And finally, the unconventional star-crossed lovers of a grump and sunshine romance. Sophie and Charlie are the kind of a match made in heaven where it’s easy to root for them from their first verbal sparring to their final kiss. For the two of them, though not in the second chance trope, it falls in the opportunity of choosing for themselves, allowing another’s story to inspire their respective paths.
The beautiful thing about romance is the detail that these stories all came from somewhere. People tend to diminish and dismiss the genre by calling it a cliche and, like Charlie, believing that they’re a “realist.” Still, ultimately, romance tends to be more relatable and inspiring. Perhaps, someone watched the film and took the same chance Claire did. We won’t always know that unless the narrative gets passed down. The same can be said for films like Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris that actively harness the importance of following our dreams.
There’s a clear plan in films like this, and it’s often to tell the stories that spark the reappearance of hope. The second chance trope especially looks closely into this idea that sometimes the things (or people) you’re holding onto are waiting for you too. It allows us to believe that maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason we’re romanticizing something that might seem trivial to someone else because it’s meant to be a large part of our lives.
Letters to Juliet romanticizes the second chance trope because it understands the immensity of destiny and choice intermingling to bring something sensational into a person’s life. It understands that sometimes, people can’t let certain things go because they aren’t supposed to—because the fight to find it again is part of the journey, which could later inspire another. It’s a story that questions belief but simultaneously demands that people pay attention to the small moments because those are the pieces of the story that’ll matter most—the beats that strengthen faith.
There’s also something about Sophie writing this story as it happens in real life because as a writer who’s experienced something very similar, there’s nothing quite like seeing the words and understanding the weight of love as you watch it unfold.
The love stories within the film all act as a reminder that it’s worth holding on when you’re heart isn’t able to let go. They’re proof that there’s a reason for everything, including stumbling into a place and wanting to know more. There are stories in every corner of the world, and chasing those stories matters. Letters to Juliet takes the scenic route at times, but it doesn’t miss a single beat in reminding viewers that it’s living through pain that’s gotten people to the sheer, heartwarming joy they’re experiencing. It results from fate and free will dancing together in a waltz that promises laughter amidst the pain and unceasing love through every challenge.