33 Postcards is possibly the first Chinese-Australian co-production and includes the work of some talented people. Here’s hoping that the next one comes out better.
Australian co-writer and director Pauline Chan has an intriguing outline for a story but can’t achieve the right balance between the film’s lighter and darker elements. It would be easier to like the film if it were more focused and believable. When the music starts to swell, there’s a nagging feeling that the images haven’t earned the crescendo playing in the background.
Zhu Lin stars as a 16-year old Chinese orphan known as “Mei Mei.” Technically, Mei Mei has no name because her parents have dumped her at the orphanage. Her moniker simply means “little sister.” Fortunately, she has a mysterious Australian benefactor named Dean Randall (Guy Pearce). Along with the checks, he sends glowing picture postcards describing his life in a beachfront house with his family in Sydney.
When the children’s choir Mei Mei conducts tours Down Under, she sneaks away to find her benefactor, only to discover Randall is an unmarried convict. Everything he has told her but his name has been a lie. Stubborn, naive Mei Mei wants to help, though as an immigrant minor there isn’t much she can do.
Or is there? Randall is due for parole, but his brother Gary (Rhys Muldoon) and a shady business partner, Fletch (Terry Serio), have a stolen car racket going, which might just send Randall back to the slammer. Mei Mei’s faith in the convict is all that keeps the brooding wreck of a man from falling apart.
Mei Mei and Randall have an intriguing relationship because they’re both orphans in their own nations, but what keeps the relationship between the two protagonists from achieving its emotional promise is that Mei Mei’s wide-eyed innocence stretches credulity. She gets around a foreign city and a new language with only token difficulties and is slow to pick up on how grim Randall’s situation is.
The prison scenes are certainly dingy and bleak, but fellow inmates who think that Randall might be snitching on them sure do take their time acting on their suspicions. They’d probably kill him well before he makes up his mind about whether to do so.
Pearce can play sullen and softhearted with equal ease. With his droopy posture and a sense of resignation, he gives the impression of having lived out of the sunlight for too long. He’s also the one element of the film that works consistently.
33 Postcards 71 Cast: Guy Pearce, Zhu Lin, Claudia Karvan, Elaine Jin, Rhys Muldoon, Terry Serio, Matt Nable, Kain O’Keeffe Director: Pauline Chan Rating: Not rated Running time: 97 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 05/17/2013
Print Headline: 33 Postcards