CORRESPONDENCE is a Powerful and Poetic Affair

A sweeping mixture of classic international romance and modern sensibilities

While it may not appear so, the newly-released independent drama Correspondence is perhaps one of the most incredibly engrossing dramas to come out in quite some time. Written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, the film may not be anywhere on the same level as Cinema Paradiso (unarguably his reigning masterpiece) or contain the exquisiteness of the director’s other great work, Everybody’s Fine. Yet Correspondence is in keeping with the director’s penchant for telling stories full of human bonds and the power of emotions. Much like the characters’ romance in the film, Correspondence is special, secret and a comment about the spiritual connection that exists in the souls of lovers no matter where fate takes them.

In Correspondence, physics professor Ed Phoreum (Jeremy Irons) is having a passionate love affair with stunt woman/PhD candidate Amy Ryan (Olga Kurylenko). However, due to the nature of their lives (the unhappily married Ed is busy always on the go lecturing), the bulk of their relationship must play out via text, email and skype with occasional weekend face-to-face interludes here and there. When Amy learns that Ed has died from an illness he kept hidden from everyone, she is devastated until she begins receiving a series of emails, video messages and packages all pre-planned from Ed.

Tornatore has certainly fashioned Correspondence as an ode to the great European romance films of the 60s and 70s. The film is a loving and stunning nod to international cinema especially with its casting and score, which is a lush and dreamy offering from the great Ennio Morricone. There’s something a bit fragmented in the way some scenes are cut off right away while others are left to linger, much in keeping with European filmmaking techniques. Moreover, Tornatore’s script delivers some of the most romantic of lines, all of which would have been right at home in any romance film of the past. “What was I lecturing on when I first saw you,” Ed asks Amy at one point before answering: “The concept of infinity…” As the film progresses, the dialogue become even more poetic, especially in the moment when Ed, declaring in his final recorded message to Amy, says: “My mistake was not meeting you sooner.” But it’s the movie’s general concept where the tribute to such films is most present. Correspondence is a film about two people at complete opposite places in life, with different needs, lives and responsibilities meeting each other and trying desperately to make the love between them last as long as possible.

In the midst of all its traditional ideals, there’s a modern edge to Correspondence in terms of characters, professions and their overall life situations. The most obvious of this is in the way the two communicate with each other, which is typically through technology. The film is certainly a comment on how much email, text and skyping bring so much joy, pleasure, ecstasy and elation to someone like our star-crossed lovers. For both her and Ed, the act of skyping means almost as much as being in the same room. “Where are you,” asks Ed. “How should I picture you?” Hearing him put such questions to Amy contains such a beautiful, romantic longing that’s impossible not to be taken by them. Later on, when Amy is trying to decipher the many ambiguous messages and packages Ed has posthumously sent her, she literally cries to her computer screen: “You can’t leave me in a maze with no exit!”

One of the reasons that the film works as well as it does is thanks to the two leads who inject Correspondence with such beauty and fire in ways which aren’t the most obvious. Irons’s stellar narration makes the film feel incredibly elegant, while Kurylenko’s deep emotional stares give off a true soulfulness. Although the pair share very limited screen time together, it is so easy to buy the two actors as lovers due to the magnetic energy they give off. Even when the two are acting opposite each other on skype, Irons and Kurylenko show some of the best romantic movie chemistry in recent memory.

While it would have been easy to focus on the age difference between the two characters, the issue only shows itself once in awhile, signifying that it’s not actually an issue, nor is it the main focus of the romance. Correspondence takes a dramatic turn and presents a mystery angle which sneaks up, rather than jumps out, making the film all the more captivating. Mystery or not, Correspondence re-defines romance as well as what it means to be completely enraptured by love and the overall concept of undying devotion. For all the complexities and emotions the film offers, Ed sums it up perfectly by simply saying to Amy: “All I can say is I love you.”

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