Imagine living in the middle of a society so unaware of the books you crave. Imagine no Amazon. No free shipping! No forums dedicated to your favorite authors.
Finding a friend who shares your love of the newest self-published novel is rare enough. Imagine finding a soul mate who understands your love for books written a century ago. Imagine finding someone who shared your love of inexpensive rare editions and could find them for you for under $5.
Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) shows all the signs of being a hopeless bibliophile. She is an eccentric script reader who makes just enough money to survive and yet dreams of owning copies of old books from an antiquarian bookstore. She is quite the character with a delicious sense of humor and always speaks her mind.
"I never can get interested in things that didn't happen to people who never lived." -Helene
When she is told that readers in New York are not reading British books by British writers, she can't believe that English literature is not read in New York! She finds an English bookseller's address and writes a letter asking for a few books to be sent to her in New York.
She first contacts Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins) on October 5th, 1949. Through the years Frank is able to find books she is dying to read and Helene shows her appreciation by sending small packages to his office for all the employees and for his family. She ships food to them they never see or only can obtain through the black market.
Some of Helene's letters are so hilarious. I think I laughed almost once every time she was writing. It is such a brash contrast with Frank's very British formality.
Helene seems quite infatuated with all things British and even attempts a Yorkshire Pudding for her friends in New York. They are all most impressed.
What struck me most boldly about this rather serene movie was the beautiful way in which Frank and Helene touched one another's lives through simple sentiments and occasional packages. A gift, a word, a sentence of encouragement. The letters are read while scenes play out in each country.
Frank's wife is played by Judi Dench who looks most radiant. She also writes occasional letters to Helene.
While Helene and Frank write beautiful letters back and forth, Helene's true love really seems to be books. Frank is just one of the only souls alive who seems to understand her constant obsession with reading.
A beautiful expression of pure friendship.