Movie review: Last Letter
For fans of Shunji Iwai's 1995 Japanese breakout hit Love Letter, the writer-director's companion film mostly delivers something to write home about.
Housewife Yuri (Takako Matsu) attends her popular sister Misaki's high school reunion 25 years after they graduated to inform everyone that the latter had recently died, but gets mistaken for her instead.
Things get complicated when Yuri's high school crush Kyoshiro (Masaharu Fukuyama) confesses that he is still in love with her after all the time, thinking she is Misaki.
Opening exclusively at The Projector on Oct 1, Last Letter's quaint premise belies the many layers waiting to be peeled away.
It is initially told from the point of view of Yuri, when she starts sending Kyoshiro letters without leaving a return address.
The forlorn failed novelist desperately writes back to Misaki's childhood home, but his mail ends up with Misaki's only child Ayumi (Suzu Hirose, in a dual role as mother and daughter), who also decides to impersonate Misaki and pens responses back.
The focus then shifts to Kyoshiro in the second half, and that is when things veer into melancholic - and sometimes melodramatic - territory, as the past and present converge to reveal what happened to his enigmatic teen sweetheart and the school's golden girl.
Last Letter is highly reminiscent of Love Letter, from the unhurried pacing to the mistaken identities, as well as Iwai's fixation with one's unrequited first love from high school, wistful nostalgia for a bygone youth and how the dead continue to affect the living from beyond the grave.
It even features surprise - and very welcome - cameos from two cast members of Love Letter, who play so against type from their original roles that they almost seem unrecognisable.
There is a profound sense of regret, sadness and heartbreak that permeates Last Letter but that is less present in its predecessor, before it concludes on a bittersweet note.
Characters attempt to let go and move on from their collective memories and shared tragedy - but not before the romance film has wrung out a tear or two from you.
LAST LETTER (PG)