Director: Pauline Chan
Cast: Guy Pearce, Zhu Lin, Claudia Karvan, Elaine Jin, Lincoln Lewis, Rhys Muldoon,Terry Serio.
If you have read my writings/reviews in the past, you would’ve heard me say multiple times that I’m both a pretty big fan and supporter of Australian films and I’ll watch any that comes my way. I’m usually pretty up to date when it comes to them but every now and again its always nice to watch one that you don’t really know much about. Although I’ve heard of 33 POSTCARDS for a while now, I honestly didn’t know what the plot was about. All I knew about it was that it starred one of my favourite Aussie actors Guy Pearce. So I went into this one without any preconceived notions.
The film tells the story of a teenage Chinese girl named Mei Mei (Zhu Lin) who was abandoned and put into an orphanage by her parents when she was a young child. While there Mei Mei is told that she has just been sponsored by an Australian man named Dean Randall (Guy Pearce), who also starts sending her postcards telling her about his life with his wife and children in Sydney, Australia. They start correspond with each other though the mail and a friendship forms between them. Many years later when she is 16, Mei Mei finds out that she and her orphanage’s choir has been chosen to go on tour in Australia for a choir festival. When they get to Sydney, she decides to take the opportunity to go find Dean and his family. However she soon discovers the truth about Dean: everything that he told over the years is a lie and he is in fact a convict in prison. What follows after changes the lives of both of them forever.
I must admit that on paper the plot for 33 POSTCARDS is a good one and the film could have easily have been a really compelling drama. Unfortunately the film itself doesn’t quite live up to its premise. While it isn’t a bad film at all and it’s quite watchable, it’s just a rather average and forgettable one. It had a lot of potential to be a really strong film but sadly co-writer/director Pauline Chan’s approach to it makes the film feel more like a T.V. film that you would see on the Hallmark channel.
I can see what she was trying to do by making a film that’s both heartwarming and moving but it just wasn’t executed very well. The film itself comes off rather sentimental and awkward. Also there are some elements and subplots that I found interesting but they weren’t really explored enough to leave much of an impact (especially the subplot where Mei Mei, unknowingly, gets involved in a car stealing ring). Plus the script is rather predictable and clichéd.
However if there is one thing I can’t fault the film for and that’s the performances from the cast, who all do a good job despite the material. Newcomer Zhu Lin does a solid in the role of Mei Mei, while she does struggle a bit with her English accent (she didn’t really speak much English at all prior to working on this film) but she does well at conveying her character’s sweet but naive innocence. Guy Pearce gives a very strong performance as Dean. He brings a lot of interesting qualities and layers to his character that you wouldn’t expect to find in a film like this. They were definitely the main highlights for me and their relationship between both of their characters is one of the strongest aspects of the film.
The supporting cast all do the best with what they we’re given, particularly Claudia Karvan and Lincoln Lewis who I thought were both fine in their roles even they were a bit underwritten (although it was nice to see Karvan team-up on a film with Pearce again, the last time they worked together was the 90’s Aussie body swap romantic comedy DATING THE ENEMY). Also I really enjoyed the score by Anthony Partos, which I thought was really well done and quite memorable.
Overall while 33 POSTCARDS does have its heart set in the right place and there are some aspects I did like but unfortunately wasn’t as good as it could have been. If it had a much better written screenplay and stronger direction, it could have been a pretty good film instead of just being a pretty average one.
The Australian DVD:
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
Review written by Bede Jermyn
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill, care of Eagle Entertainment for the copy.