‘Love Letter’ is a tale of two women trading honey soaked memories of a man buried under snowfall but who still melts their hearts after death.
This Love Letter movie review contains spoilers. The picture was recently part of a Japan Society film screening showcasing Director Shunji Iwai in NYC.
Two identical looking women try to put together the missing pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that was Itsuki Fujii in Japanese film, ‘Love Letter’. To Hiroko Watanabe, Fujii was her fiancé and the light in her eyes. To Itsuki Fujii, a classmate by the same name and hidden crush she repressed until it was too late.
Love Letter shows us no matter how intimate a bond we believe we share with someone else, it’s still just a fraction of their life. There’s details lost along the way, moments we weren’t and can never be a part of or even know.
“Lucky boy to have you jealous after he’s gone”
Hiroko Watanabe is initially devastated to learn Fujii’s ‘love at first sight’ for her was only half true. Watanabe perfectly resembled a girl from Fujii’s school, a replica of the original. Both characters, Hiroko and female Itsuki are played by the same actress Miho Nakayama.
Male Fujii’s mother remarks that he’s lucky to have Watanbe to be newly jealous even in death. However, Hiroko’s promise to never forgive male Itsuki quickly resolves in the face of learning more of his history. In her words, “I’m a greedy girl, you’re gone and I still want more. I can’t let you go.”
One Way Conversation
Hiroko later goes to stay in the lodge that male Itsuki stayed in one last time before a mountain climbing accident… Where he was buried under the snow, singing as a sort of siren for help until only static remained.
She yells onto the mountain, pretending to have one last conversation with the love of her life. Telling him ‘she is well’ while breaking down into tears.
The High School library book portrait drawing
The past high school scenes in Love Letter are worth the price of admission on their own. Male and female Itsuki Fujii are both tormented & bonded by their identical name. Constantly made light of by their classmates until their breaking point.
Assigned to library duty, male Itsuki Fujii constantly takes out books that no one else has so he can be the only name listed. “An Itsuki Fujii royal flush” in his words. A driven individual we see male Itsuki attempt to compete in a race with a broken leg as female Itsuki Fujii secretly films the moment.
Male Itsuki Fujii takes out one last book and personally hand delivers it to female Itsuki Fujii, asking her to return the book for him… When female Itsuki Fujii discovers it’s because male Itsuki transferred schools to stop her mocking by classmates, she breaks a vase in class in a strong scene. Cue silence.
Years later, the next generation of female students on library duty discover the last book returned by male Itsuki Fujii secretly had a drawing of female Itsuki Fujii on the back of its card.
When female Itsuki Fujii is given the portrait, she’s beside herself at the revelation.
Perhaps the most powerful scene in Love Letter is by actor Katsuyuki Shinohara who plays female Itsuki’s grandfather. We learn female Itsuki’s father had perished from a cold that turned to pneumonia during a snow storm. He was unable to receive timely treatment due a delay in emergency services and female Itsuki’s grandfather carried him to the hospital… But he didn’t make it.
History repeats itself as female Itsuki collapses on the floor from a fever and her mom and grandpa are faced with a blizzard choice. Wait 1 hour for emergency services or have her grandpa carry her to the hospital “even if it takes his life.” In his words, “it’s your daughter, you have to make the choice.”
In a flash decision, the grandpa carries his granddaughter and even collapses once into the snow. But gets up and manages to bring her to the hospital to survive. It’s an unforgettable scene.
Conclusion: Love Letter reveals itself slowly, piece by piece as a good romance should be.
– Love Letter was part of a collection of Shunji Iwai movies that screened at Japan Society New York City.
Love Letter Cast
Meet the main Love Letter Film cast:
Miho Nakayama as Itsuki Fujii / Hiroko Watanabe
Miki Sakai as young female Itsuki Fujii
Takashi Kashiwabara as male Itsuki Fujii
Etsushi Toyokawa as Akiba Shigeru
Bunjaku Han as female Itsuki’s mother
Katsuyuki Shinohara as Female itsuki’s grandfather
Mariko Kaga as male Itsuki’s mother
More Japan Society Event Coverage
Be sure to check out these exclusive articles on NYC’s Japan Society:
Films by Shunji Iwai:
Japan Cuts Festival:
Read more coverage of Japanese Movies like Love Letter in the Japanese Films section! From beloved classics to hidden gems, we’ve got coverage of everything at The Natural Aristocrat®.