Real-Life Letters To JulietS

Letters to Juliet is obviously awful. But what about the story that inspired it?

The Amanda Seyfried film sees a young writer traveling to Verona and discovering the "Juliet Club," a group of women who respond to each and every letter romantic pilgrims leave for the doomed Capulet tween. Romance ensues. If you think it's all a little 3 Coins in the Fountain, join the club. But in fact, this is a real phenomenon — as well as rom-com gold.

While the responses are penned by volunteers, the enterprise, as the Times of London points out, isn't purely altruistic:

When Giovanna's father, club president Giulio, 77, founded the Juliet Club in 1992, he was following a rich tradition of curators, custodians and showmen who have all excelled over the years at inventing new customs to ensure that the romantically inclined keep coming to the north Italian city. Photographs show that lovelorn pilgrims were leaving notes at Juliet's supposed tomb as early as the 1890s. But thanks to the dedication of the club volunteers, the trickle of letters beseeching Juliet for help has now become a torrent.

The phenomenon has not hurt tourism to "Juliet's" home of legend one bit - and the Juliet Club's comprehensive website attests to the fact that its organizers are well aware of its commercial potential.

And the letters are often far more heart-rending and less easily-answered than those of the flick. According to the volunteer agony aunts, one 62-year-old Florida widower writes, "My problem is very complicated and difficult. I am in love with a missionary nun." Meanwhile, a 14-year-old implores, "Dear Juliet, I am heartbroken. I am in love with a GIRL, and in India lesbians are never heard of. I'm in a mess. Please, only you can understand my problem." A young man, struggling with his sexuality, contemplates suicide and writes, "You can make the response as generic and corny as you like...I just need reassurance that all in my life will be OK."

And that, of course, really says it all. For most people the leaving of the letter is probably cathartic enough - and for others, the idea of getting a response from the beyond, odd ("Wouldn't that be unnerving — like leaving a note at the Wailing Wall and getting a postcard from God?" asks the New York Post's Kyle Smith in his one-star pan of the film version.) But for those few who just need a word, a voice, some connection, well, it's hard to argue. I'd personally use my response to guide these young people to support groups and organizations on the internet, help them connect with real people - but maybe that's not what Juliet would say.

Wherefore Art Thou Juliet? [TimesUK]
In 'Letters To Juliet,' All Roads Lead To Romeo [NY Post]