Last June, just three months after Vanessa Redgrave lost her daughter, Natasha Richardson, in a freak skiing accident, the Academy Award-winning actress signed on to play Claire Wyman in the Summit Entertainment romance drama Letters to Juliet. The adaptation of Lise and Ceil Friedman’s book about the lovelorn women who write to star-crossed lover Juliet Capulet screened at Showest on Tuesday to resounding applause. While Amanda Seyfried is the star of the movie, playing the optimistic New Yorker fact checker who happens upon the group of Italian women who reply to the letters addressed to Juliet, it’s Redgrave’s understated performance that has stayed with me.
The 73-year-old actress plays a grandmother whose letter about a lost love written to Juliet 50 years earlier is found and replied to by Seyfried’s character. What ensues is a lengthy journey in search of the lost love, during which Seyfried and Redgrave form a bond. In one poignant scene, in part because of the actress’s recent loss, Redgrave finds Seyfried’s character in her hotel room, and in an attempt to comfort her, brushes Seyfried’s hair in a very maternal way. Seyfried bears a subtle resemblance to Richardson, and it’s hard to imagine how difficult it was for Redgrave to film the scene.
Letters to Juliet bows on May 14. Perhaps by then Redgrave will begin talking about playing this role, which hopefully provided some sort of catharsis for her. One thing’s for sure: It’s great to see the actress back to work.