Pablo Neruda, the famous Chilean poet, is exiled to a small island for political reasons. On the island, the unemployed son of a poor fisherman is hired as an extra postman due to the huge increase in mail that this causes. Il Postino is to hand-deliver the celebrity's mail to him. Though poorly educated, the postman learns to love poetry and eventually befriends Neruda. Struggling to grow and express himself more fully, he suddenly falls in love and needs Neruda's help and guidance more than ever. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
"Il Postino" is a movie that received oodles of critical acclaim upon its release in 1994. While I don't think it was as good as advertised, I understand why it received such praise. In a movie world that is filled with dry and unamusing romance stories, "Il Postino" is a relatively lush and beautiful tale.
The plot is fairly simple but loaded with subtleties that allow, even encourage, multiple viewings. Mario (Massimo Troisi) longs for something more than his simple fisherman life on an Italian island, so he takes a small job as a postman, delivering mail to famed romantic poet Pablo Neruda (Phillipe Noiret), who is living in exile on the same island. Over time, they develop a relationship that is based on Neruda aiding Mario in wooing his beloved Beatrice (Maria Grazia Cucinotta).
The final act is where the film makes the leap from well-made standard fare to something greater. With a couple plausible plot developments, characters and relationships are deepened beyond a basic love story, to a place that accents everything that happens leading up to that point. I can't say much else without giving things away, but stick with the movie to the end, even if you're dragging midway through.
As you might expect from an Italian film, "Il Postino" has a very European feel. The passion of Italy is present throughout, explained through lifestyles, literal and metaphorical imagery, and the emotions of the characters. The setting is far from the bustling dollar-driven society in which Americans dwell, and a movie like this wouldn't get made in America, because the cultures are drastically different.
The film's star, Massimo Troisi, is excellent. He embodies everyman qualities exceptionally, similar to Tom Hanks, yet with more...something. Soul perhaps? He, like the entire film, is just more European, and I hope you understand what I mean by that. Noiret portrays Neruda perfectly, expressing his romantic ways through both words and actions. Everyone else is very good, although no one stands out; the overall anonymity of the cast aids the viewer in establishing culture as well.
The cinematography and the scenery it presents is often breathtaking, although not in the sweeping manner of something like The Lord of the Rings. Rather, cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo wisely chose to let the pictures speak for themselves. The elegant cliffs, white-capped waves, and rolling topography of the island gently yet firmly frame and support the story. A straight-forward tale should have suitable pictures, and "Il Postino" meets that requirement.
The film is touted as a romantic comedy, and it is, although not in the traditional sense. The comedy isn't slapstick and won't elicit bushels of laughter. But there is an underlying sense of humor laced through the whole movie, often in simple movements, tasks, or occurrences.
All of this combines to present something like a fairy tale replete with Italian heart and soul. "Il Postino" won't blow you away, but its tender lessons about life, love, and friendship will stick with you for some time, urging another viewing.
Bottom Line: A very European romance that is better than most anything Hollywood can conjure up. 8/10.
(If you like the film, get the Collector's Edition DVD; it's quite good.)
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