Dear Melissa ... Dear Andrew ...
I don't know whether it is the simple fact that "Love Letters" is very different to your normal made for TV movie or that in Steven Weber and Laura Linney it has two very capable stars but something about it stands out. It's different to your normal sort of TV movies because it is an adaptation of a stage play and is all about a man having returned from a funeral going through all the letters he wrote to the deceased, his friend and lover since childhood, and remembering writing them. Now yes that does mean that "Love Letters" is sentimental and slushy but it is also beautiful as we witness the close bond between these two people, the emotional ups and downs of their lives together and separately and how their friendship through correspondence helped them through the best and worst times. It is by no means perfect and at times the content of the letters feels too normal and repetitive yet the emotional depth stills shines through.
Having returned home from the funeral of Melissa (Laura Linney - The Truman Show), his friend since childhood, Senator Andrew Ladd (Steven Weber - At First Sight) has 3 shoeboxes full of letters he sent her plus those which he has kept that she sent him. Looking through them he reminisces about their friendship from the first moment he laid eyes on Melissa as a 7 year old to failed relationships and their unwavering friendship through good and bad.
When "Love Letters" start we see Andrew sit down with both the letters he wrote Melissa which she kept but also an organized lock box full of the letters he sent her then Melissa materializes. Initially that sounds weird but it works because it allows for the letters to become conversations as the two take us through their lives from that childhood meeting where we see the adult Andrew and Melissa perched on top of a bookshelf in a classroom looking down on when they met, reciting the little notes and letters they sent each other. It is a wonderful visual style which brings to life the letters, keeping them as correspondence but allowing us to feel the emotion of those early meetings. As time passes and we shift from Andrew and Melissa being children to teenagers and young adults this fades away as Steven Weber and Laura Linney take on the roles of the younger versions of themselves but do so brilliantly.
Now as to these letters well basically they diarise the relationship between Andrew and Melissa, Andrew's teenage heartbreak when on New Years eve Melissa kissed another boy to her heartbreak when Andrew has a girlfriend when she hoped he would ask her out. We do also see various failed attempts at them being a couple with issues always getting in the way from inexperience to Andrew's political ambitions and marriage. But we also see that through life's ups and downs these letters remain the constant support to get each of them through a crisis.
All of which works really nicely and both Steven Weber and Laura Linney do a really nice job of bringing the emotions of their characters to life throughout the movie. But at times the content of the letters seems not only to be mundane but also repetitive which maybe is made to illustrate the mundane-ness of normality but at times it causes the movie to lose its edge and feel like it is droning on. This problem is exasperated by some overly saccharine music which also feels like it is droning on although to be honest it is the sort of music expect from a made for TV movie. Having said that director Stanley Donen, yes the Stanley Donen whose name is synonymous with musicals, does his best to use the music to highlight the more romantic aspects of the movie and on a whole Donen delivers a charming movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Love Letters" is very different to what you normally expect from a made for TV movie and it is an entertaining movie to watch with its stage roots very visible. But it does occasionally suffer from periods of not so much nothingness but mundane-ness where things start to get repetitive.