Love Letter (1995)

Love Letter (1995)

Released: 1995
Genre: Drama, Genre, Romance
Director: Shunji Iwai
Starring: Bunjaku Han, Etsushi Toyokawa, Miho Nakayama, ,
Run time: 117 min
IMDb: 8/10
Country: Japan
Views: 87827


Hiroko Watanabe’s fiancé Itsuki died two years earlier in a mountain climbing accident. While looking through his high school yearbook, Hiroko in a fit of grief decides to write a letter to him using his old school address. Surprisingly she receives a reply, not from the dead Itsuki, but from a woman with the same name whom had known Hiroko’s fiancé in school. A relationship develops between the two women as they continue to exchange letters and share memories of the dead Itsuki.
Written by
Todd K. Bowman <[email protected]>
User Reviews: Carl Jung said "What is not brought to consciousness comes to us as fate". For Hiroko Watanabe, the passing of two years has not lessened the pain brought on by the death of her young fiancé, Itsuki Fujii (Takashi Kashiwabara) in a mountain climbing accident. She longs for healing but is unable to let go of his sudden death. Fate intervenes, however, and a single letter she writes to her deceased lover as a whim sets in motion a chain of events that allows her to discover the untold secrets of their connection. Written and directed by Shunji Iwai and based on his novel of the same name, Love Letter is a simple but very moving love story about two people who must redeem the past in order to be fully alive in the present.

While looking through her fiancé’s old school yearbook after the memorial ceremony, Hiroko wants to find something of Itsuki that she can hold onto, some token that will allow her to let go. Finding his name in the yearbook, she jots down the address associated with the name Itsuki Fujii and mails a short letter addressed to him in Otaro in northern Japan. She asks "How are you? and tells him, "I am fine". Thinking that she is sending a letter to heaven, she is supported by Akiba (Etsushi Toyokawa), a close friend of Itsuki who has fallen in love with her and strongly wants her to complete the past. To her surprise she receives a reply and, after the exchange of several letters, discovers that her correspondent is not a disembodied spirit but a very alive woman with the same exact name as her fiancé. Even more astonishing is that both male and female Itsuki Fujiis were classmates together in Junior High School.

While there is some initial confusion stemming from the fat that both Hiroko and the female Itsuki are performed by the superb Miho Nakayama in a dual role, each character’s personality is so individual that any confusion is soon dispelled. As the letters continue, Itsuki uncovers some hidden truths about herself, her father’s death, and her relationship with the shy student with the same name. Bringing to light memories from the past that she had long buried, she remembers how they were teased by fellow classmates for having the same name, how they developed a bond while working together in the library, and how the male Itsuki, checking out books from the library, wrote his name on five checkout cards saying to her in English "straight flush".

Sensing that Hiroko’s quest for completion has reached a dead end, Akiba takes her on a trip to Otaru to meet the female Itsuki and to search for some memento of her fiancé. In a memorable scene in which, in the words of author Marion Woodman, "the eternal crosses the transitory", Hiroko cries out to the mountain that holds the body of her lost love, "O-genki desu ka? "Watashi wa genki desu", "How are you? I am fine", and the words echo through the winter night to be repeated by the female Itsuki sitting in her home miles away.

Love Letter is a film of exquisite cinematic poetry that explores the subjectivity of memory and the idea of redemption. Author Robertson Davies says, "One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence" Like gemstones of coral and quartz that fill our life with joy, Itsuki Fujii came into the lives of two young women, then as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone, yet now both Hiroko and the female Itsuki have established a strange connection and are, in the words of Elizabeth Lesser, "no longer dead, but alive with something luminous and solid burning in their core".

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