Warning: This introduction contains spoilers for both Love Letter (1995) and A Wedding Invitation (2013)
In the realm of movies, there are a bountiful amount of genres to choose from. There are Thrillers, Action films, and many more, but one genre that does not get enough recognition is the Romantic Drama genre. Two such films within the genre that do not receive recognition in the West are A Wedding Invitation (2013) directed by Korean director Ki-hwan Oh and Love Letter (1995) directed by Japanese director Shunji Iwai. Although the plots of each film are different, they ultimately reach the same conclusion. Additionally, both Love Letter and A Wedding Invitation show the progression of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Even though they go through the stages in different orders and ways, both Hiroko and Li Xing come to same conclusion of acceptance and begin to move past their grief.
Love Letter follows the story of Hiroko Watanabe as she deals with the death of her husband Itsuki Fujii. On the two year anniversary of her husband’s death in a climbing accident, Hiroko visits her former step-mother who shows her Itsuki’s high school year book. Mrs. Fujii explains that they used to live in Otaru while Itsuki was a high school student, but a highway was built where their old house was. However, Hiroko finds an address listed under Itsuki Fujii and decides to mail a letter to this address out of curiosity. To her surprise, she receives a response from Itsuki Fujii and wants to believe that it is her dead husband. In actuality, it is someone her husband went to school with who is also named Itsuki Fujii, hence why she mailed the letter to this address. The two continue to exchange letters until one day, Akiba one of her husband’s former friends and now her lover, discovers that she is sending letters to someone named Itsuki Fujii. He demands this supposed Itsuki Fujii prove their identity, and only once they receive Itsuki’s ID card, do they realize that she is a high school classmate of Hiroko’s husband.
Hiroko asks that Itsuki share her memories of the two of them in high school, which she does through the letters. Finally, Akiba suggests that the two of them go to the mountain where Itsuki, her husband, died since Akiba believes that she is still unable to come to terms with his death. The morning after they arrive, Akiba wakes up Hiroko and shows her the mountain in the distance where Itsuki died. She begins yelling “How are you? I’m Fine,” over and over eventually breaking down and crying. From that moment on, she seemingly has moved on from Itsuki’s death. Meanwhile, the female Itsuki Fujii is visited by a band of school girls who attend the same high school she did while she knew the male Itsuki Fujii. They reveal to her that in fact, the other Itsuki Fujii loved her.
A Wedding Invitation follows the story of two young Chinese lovers who have put their relationship on hold. Qiao Qiao, played by actress Bai Baihe and Li Xing played by actor Eddie Peng star as the young couple. The two of them met in high school and were planning on getting married after they had graduated. Despite their plans, Qiao Qiao tells Li Xing that she will not marry him until he has a better job and they make a contract where the two agree to put their relationship on hold for five years. After the five years are up, Li Xing has become an accomplished chef and is on a celebrity cook show where he is favored to win. Meanwhile, Qiao Qiao has not changed at all, but it is shown that she still loves Li Xing. When they reunite, Li Xing informs her that he is getting married and subjects Qiao Qiao to a variety of tests to see if she still loves him. Later, Li Xing hands her a wedding invitation that is shown to be their wedding invitation. Despite their feelings for one another, Qiao Qiao once again distances herself from Li Xing just before they are about to get married. Li Xing goes to Mao Mao, a friend of Qiao Qiao’s and reacts violently to her disappearance, but learns from Mao Mao that she has been battling stomach cancer over the past five years. It can be assumed that this is why they broke up in the first place as she did not want to hurt him.
Li Xing visits Qiao Qiao in the hospital and has an emotional breakdown. He feels guilty that he has not been there for her while she received treatment and was in pain. However, he and Mao Mao seem to reach a deal, when Li Xing begins to cook meals for her while she is in the hospital. Meanwhile, Mao Mao tells her it is from a new restaurant and brings the dishes she has asked for until she asks to leave the hospital. The two of them meet again and decide to get married, but Qiao Qiao dies a short time after. Li Xing takes over a restaurant that they frequented together and is able to accept Qiao Qiao’s death as he is smiling at the end of the movie.