Netflix’s romantic drama The Last Letter from Your Lover is now streaming and is adapted from Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same name. The film jumps between a modern-day love story that plays out between Felicity Jones and Nabhaan Rizwan’s characters, while a steamy affair happens in the 1960s between Shailene Woodley’s Jennifer Stirling and Callum Turner’s Anthony O’Haire.
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ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to The Last Letter from Your Lover author Jojo Moyes about the romance film’s changes, watching her story come to life, and more. Check out the video below or the full transcript.
Tyler Treese: You’ve had a very successful career as an author, but you also have a journalism background and we see that represented in the film through Ellie’s character. How has journalism really helped your creative writing?
Jojo Moyes: Oh, hugely. I mean, for start, it’s just made me a stickler for research. Like there’s not a book that I write that I don’t research down to the bone before I get going. I really think that adds color and depth to the things that you write. But also it meant that I was able to write to deadline, which in publishing is kind of a rare thing. My editors know that if I say I’m going to deliver, I’m going to deliver on time.
Ellie’s relationship has quite changed a bit from the novel in this film. In the novel, she has an affair with a married man. It’s kind of a mirror image between the two times, but she still goes through a similar learning experience while investigating in the film. Can you discuss those changes and how it still stays true to the original message?
Yeah. Well, I guess I’ve been around the adaptation block now enough to know that not everything is going to stay the same, but what’s important for me is that the spirit of it remains the same. As you say, Ellie still embarks on a pretty similar journey. I didn’t write the script, it was actually optioned at a time when I didn’t write scripts at all. I didn’t think I was capable of handling a plot that complicated if I’m honest. So I think the changes that they’ve made along the way are actually quite valuable ones. It’s a nice feeling to not miss the version that I’d wrote. For me personally, the big love story that stayed in my head was always Ellie and Anthony. I think if that had shifted dramatically, I might have minded more, but I think what the scriptwriters have done with the modern-day one is actually great.
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Now, as you said, you’ve been around the block here with adaptations. Me Before You receive an adaptation. As an author, what are your feelings on just seeing those characters brought to life on screen? I imagine it’s so rewarding and cool to see.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve been very lucky. I’m going to say that outright. I know a lot of writers have not had as good experiences. I think I’ve been really lucky with the directors that I’ve worked with, but I still remember the first day I walked onto a film set and it was the set for Me Before You. Will was walking along in a fake rainstorm, wearing the suit that I would have imagined in line with the haircut that somebody had imagined him and he was alive. It was mind-blowing because you know, these characters have existed in your imagination for so long and nowhere else. Suddenly they are literally walking down the street in front of you. So I love going on set. Unless the director has a real hatred of it, I will always choose to come on set because watching it come to life can be magical. It is actually a magical thing. Like it’s the most fun.
The story is an interesting look at relationships both past and present, but it doesn’t really romanticize the past like some works have the habit of doing. How important was it to make sure that both love stories were portrayed authentically?
Very. For me, the thing that fascinated me about that period of the sixties was that you had a very rigid patriarchal kind of structure on one side, and then you were moving into the swinging sixties within a period of years. So society was in a state of flux women were changing how they dress, how they behaved. You had sexual liberation and yet there was a huge swathe of society that doesn’t accept that. The tension of that really appealed to me. That was important to have. … it’s very easy if you write stories that have love in them and you’re female to have people dismiss it as a love story or a romance, but actually I tend to try and write things that have the love story running through them, but have some grittier things in play. This is probably one most romantic story, but it’s still got a few elements.
The book jumps around eras and it’s not really a traditional narrative. The movie also kind of captures that. Were you impressed with how well it was able to capture that essence of the story while also telling it in a slightly different way?
I really was because, like I said, I didn’t write scripts when I first had this option. This was originally optioned about 11 years ago. And I had no interest in writing that script because I have no idea how you would translate that to screen. So the fact that they managed it and did it in a way that makes sense and will carry the audience along without too much confusion, I think is amazing. They did it very cleverly by hair and makeup. I love being challenged a bit as an audience as well. I love having to think a little bit about where I am in a story, so I’m hoping everybody else will agree.