Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Australia 1998
Directed by
John Ruane
98 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Dead Letter Office

The story of  Dead Letter Office concerns a fey young woman Alice Walsh (Miranda Otto) pining for her father (played by Miranda's real father, Barry Otto) who left her and her mother when she was a child. She used to write to him but the letters always came back marked with the seal of the dead letter office. Now an adult she gets a job in the same office in the hope that she can track down him down. There she meets Frank (George DelHoyo), an exile from Allende’s Chile.

It is a film about loss and grieving, memory and healing and watching it I could not help but think of the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez for the film seems to be striving for the kind of “magical realism” associated with Latin American literature. Surprisingly, the film was co-written by Frenchman Francis Veber, who has since gone to a very successful career as a writer-director of odd-couple comedies and Deb Cox, who also acted as co-producer and who has since largely worked in television.

Where the potentially interesting idea came from I cannot begin to guess but it is not particularly well-realized by Ruane. Partly the time frame seems wrong. Although supposedly set in the present the dead letter office seems to be some kind of forgotten 50s cul-de-sac like the moccasin factory in Mark Joffe’s Spotswood (1992). Much is made of this temporal warping but it  is simply not magical enough to have the desired effect. Then, the actors, Otto in particular, seem to have been instructed to imbue themselves with the douleurs of regret but this more often than not results in self-consciousness with DelHoyo communicating little sense of a man shattered. What was needed was a sense of the poetry in the mundane and the communality of grief, both large and small,  but despite the film improving as it goes along Ruane serves up the concept with something closer to whimsy.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst