‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ maintains a movie tradition

A new Netflix drama mails it in, rather literally

Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner star in “The Last Letter From Your Lover,” which begins streaming Friday on Netflix.

Especially now, it may be an old-fashioned method of delivering a message, but a letter always will be a viable way to do it … at least in movies.

Many films have used handwritten missives as major plot points, and even in an age when emails and texts have become more common vessels for writers’ words, that still can be the case. One example is “The Last Letter From Your Lover,” a new drama based on a Jojo Moyes novel; Netflix begins streaming the picture Friday, July 23.

Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) plays a journalist who discovers love letters revealing the course of a 1960s affair between a socialite and a reporter who was working on a profile of her industrialist husband at the time. Shailene Woodley and Callum Turner play the lovers in flashbacks, with Diana Kent and the late Ben Cross (whose final film this turned out to be) as the same couple in later years. Joe Alwyn, known in gossip circles (and certain song lyrics) as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend, also appears as the husband.

“The Last Letter From Your Lover” follows a number of other movies that also had letters as pivotal elements. Here’s a look at several of them.

“The Letter” (1940): One of Bette Davis’ ultimate classics, adapted from a W. Somerset Maugham play and directed by William Wyler, casts the screen icon as a married woman who faces being incriminated by a seductive letter she wrote to an esteemed man she killed later … allegedly in self-defense.

“A Letter to Three Wives” (1948): The same letter sent to three women (played by Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell and Ann Sothern) stirs a lot of trouble in director-screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s drama, as the writer (voiced by an unbilled Celeste Holm) claims she has run off with one of their husbands — the cue for flashbacks that show the problems in each of the marriages.

“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995): In director and star Clint Eastwood’s version of the Robert James Waller bestseller, housewife Francesca (Meryl Streep) leaves a written message for her children detailing her passionate and previously unbeknownst-to-them affair with traveling photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood), who also wrote many letters to her.

“Love Letters” (1999): Veteran director Stanley Donen’s (“Charade”) last film, this TV-movie adaptation of A.R. Gurney’s durable stage play casts Laura Linney and Steven Weber as people whose lifelong connection is traced through their plentiful correspondence.

“Letters From Iwo Jima” (2009): Clint Eastwood also had a major hand as the director of this companion to his “Flags of Our Fathers,” two films depicting World War II’s Battle of Iwo Jima from the different sides of the conflict.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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