When You Read This Letter (1953)

  |  Drama

When You Read This Letter (1953) Poster

Therese is a nun-in-training who returns to "civilian" life to care for her young sister Denise.

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Cast & Crew

Top Billed Cast


Jean-Pierre Melville


Jacques Deval

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

27 May 2012 | Charlot47
Powerful story, full of atmosphere
Enjoyably melded here are two staples of 1940s cinema, the melodrama and the noir.

Not particularly complex, the characters are either good or evil. Max (Philippe Lemaire) and all the people he mixes with, even the unfortunate rich Irène (Yvonne Sanson) who he robs and murders, are bad. While the Voise family of big sister Thérèse (Juliette Gréco), little sister Denise (Irène Galter), and the grandparents are all virtuous.

Noir elements include dream logic, fateful encounters, a high sexual charge, dramatic irony, mixed motives, violence and death. Low life individuals hustle each other in the underworld of Cannes, shot in expressionist photography full of symbolism to evocative music.

There is even an inverted femme fatale in Thérèse. Though leaving her convent on the sudden death of her parents to take over the family shop and look after Denise, she is still a nun at heart. Max, forcibly engaged to Denise after raping her, sees the fierce black-clad Thérèse as a much greater prize. She, all woman despite her outward ferocity, cannot help being susceptible to his immense charm (the two actors were lovers in real life) but sublimates her feelings into a desire to save his lost soul. In a highly emblematic scene, when Max is burning some shop rubbish in the courtyard at night, her clothes catch fire and he smothers the flames by rolling her on the ground, baring her midriff. That, however, is as close as he ever gets to rolling her around with even less on.

A powerful story, full of atmosphere, told with twists and tension and well worth the 100 minutes to watch.

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Plot Summary




Release Date:

26 July 1953



Country of Origin

France, Italy

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$5,166 (USA) (16 September 2018)


$15,552 (USA) (1 November 2018)

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