Correspondence (2016)

  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
  • Cast: Jeremy Irons, Olga Kurylenko, Shauna Macdonald


Focused on the relationship between an astronomer and his lover, who spend their years apart.

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  • The Correspondence begins with a passionate kiss and ends with a woman walking towards a new beginning. Somewhere in the middle lies the striking image of Olga Kurylenko’s Amy Ryan as she lies encased in a full body mould. The image suggests a birth of sorts but, more pressingly, that of a woman being buried alive and Amy, as in so many other instances throughout the film, must survive to live another day.

    The Correspondence itself feels like an interment, so suffocating and airless and life-draining an experience it is during its viewing. Director Guiseppe Tornatore has reportedly been turning this tale over in his head for two decades – one would think that would have refined the end product, but the lengthy gestation only proves that the idea was better left in his imagination. (There is also a novel version of the story that has been published to coincide with the film’s release; that may be a far more effective medium than film to meditate upon the film’s themes.)

    Kurylenko’s Amy, in one of the film’s infinite improbabilities, studies astrophysics whilst maintaining her profession as a death-defying stuntwoman. She has been conducting a six-year-long affair with the much older and very married Ed Phoreum (Jeremy Irons), who is also an expert in string theory. He calls her Kamikaze, she terms him the Wizard. In the one instance they are shown together, he wonders if there’s anything they don’t know about one another. She murmurs they’re one big mystery; later, she explains her attraction to him: “You’re a galaxy full of unknown stars.” Even when they’re apart – which they are most of the time due to his lecturing work and, you know, his wife and child – they are always together via a never-ending barrage of letters, emails, text messages, and Skype sessions.

    If Tornatore hasn’t lost viewers with the sterility of this May-December romance, the continuous blather about cosmic harmony and infinite multiverses where lovers could conceivably be together forever, or the insistence in having each and every written exchange heard in voiceover (it’s a wonder the emoticons aren’t read aloud), then there is a slim chance that those viewers may be piqued by the film’s central mystery. How is it that Amy keeps receiving messages from her absent lover even after she learns that he has died?

    The Correspondence was filmed in Edinburgh, York, and the mountains of Sud Tirol and Lake Orta in Italy – if nothing else, Tornatore’s film is beautiful to behold. Then there is Ennio Morricone’s lush musical compositions, which hark back to the romantic fantasy dramas of the 1930s and 1940s. In fact, The Correspondence may have greatly benefited from a change in period – setting it in the 1930s or 1940s may have made Amy’s habit of responding to Ed’s texts regardless of being in a lecture, a library, a theater performance, or in the midst of dinner with friends less annoying; and heightened the mystery and fantasy elements.

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