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Alice's father left when she was a child. She continued to share her life with him in letters that she sent not realising that he never received them. Eventually, they all come back with "Dead Letter Office" stamped on the front. As an adult, she becomes consumed with a desire to find him and takes a job with the Dead Letter Office, convinced that she can use them to fulfill her romantic notions of a reunion with her father. What awaits her at the DLO is far more than that ... Written by
Peter Webb <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You know all those letters to "Father Christmas" and "Jesus" that are sent every year? Well, it turns out that they are not actually delivered but dropped off in a half-forgotten corner of the post office to rot unless some bright spark figures out a way of posting them. As bizarre settings go, it's a winner and one which perfectly fits the strange movie that is "Dead Letter Office". Having said that, this is obviously an Australian film as opposed to a British one. If it was Royal Mail, most letters get this sort of treatment anyway. I haven't been in this flat for two years and we're still getting letters for a Mr Wang, some female priest of the Church of Latter Day I've-Never-Heard-Of-You and various catalogues for industrial equipment addressed to a plumbing company.
"Dead Letter Office" (the name given to the place where undeliverable mail ends up) follows the story of Alice (Miranda Otto) who grows up in a seriously divided home. Writing to her absent father, she only learns in adulthood that her letters haven't been delivered for one reason or another. So, logically, she gets a job at the D.L.O. and finds herself working alongside other social rejects including the brooding Chilean immigrant Frank Lopez (George Del Hoyo). Slowly, she finds herself drawn to him but can she find out where her dad is without bringing the self-contained world of the Dead Letters Office to its knees?
Nothing against this film but I was reminded of the god-awful Heather Graham film "Committed" while watching this. However, this is so much better than that pile of horse crap but then again, that ain't difficult. For a start, this film is much more logical. True, the metaphors are somewhat blatant and the underflowing symbolism quickly becomes a flood. But at least this is cohesive and quirky without being complete drivel. It is also well acted. Both Otto and Del Hoyo are very good as the lovers looking for something they know they'll never find while other characters are peripheral at best. Part of the trouble is that it seems to wrap up far too quickly, leaving this viewer somewhat disappointed. The other part is that when you consider Australia's draconian immigration policy (i.e. if you don't speak English, rack off!), such a story is unlikely to take place in reality. The other characters, sadly, also help to destabilise the realism by proving to be little more than odd-ball stereotypes.
Despite that, "Dead Letter Office" is certainly something a little different. It might not be to everyone's taste but I liked it. Yes, it was hackneyed and predictable but sometimes, it's nice to watch a film without guns or violence or heavy-duty swearing and nudity (no chance of that in an Australian film). There ain't any major laughs, there's no Bullet Time and the characters are usually one-dimensional. But it's the story that counts here and while it's not earth-shattering in its magnificence, it's a pleasant enough way of passing the time. It's the movie equivalent of a Sheryl Crow CD - nice to listen to now and again but you wouldn't really miss it if it wasn't there.
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