LOVE LETTTERS has been on making the boards of theaters large and small across the United States (and translated into many languages and performances throughout the world!) since A.R. Gurney first wrote it in 1989. It is still a popular theater piece for actors from film who want to have public exposure on the stage, for benefits, for young actors in training. Why? Because it is an unassuming, interesting easy to perform in reading fashion by just two actors on a small stage, ultimately fine exploration of the variations love has in the periods of each of our lives. It is unpredictable, clever, well written and very meaningfully tender.
In this teleplay, revised for television screens in 1999 by A.R. Gurney, Stanley Donen directs this fleshed-out performing version with a cast that would be difficult to better. Simply stated, this is a epistolary love story that begins when Andy meets Melissa in second grade and progresses through their very different lives (art school, Yale, Vietnam, alcoholism, divorces, politics, affairs, etc) until Melissa ultimately dies (we know this from the opening scene so this is NO spoiler!).
The technique of mixing actual interaction between the two characters with remembered responses works very well. Part of the reason this small play becomes important is the extraordinary performance by Laura Linney as Melissa. The breadth of her characterization is richly detailed, subtle, vulnerable, and wholly credible. Steven Weber as Andy takes a while to warm to his character (the more difficult of the two with whom to identify) but in the end he gives his best work to date.
This is really a fine little movie, interrupted only by the obvious splices of time where commercials were probably inserted in the original television version. It flows naturally and never ceases to hold your attention and your heart as it is lovingly enacted by Linney and Weber. Grady Harp, February 2005