Wishing you were here.
Writer/director Pauline Chan‘s 33 Postcards is a film with a poignant narrative that doesn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the story. Mei Mei (Zhu Lin) was dropped off at a Chinese orphanage at a young age. For years, she had a pen-pal and sponsor Dean (Guy Pearce). Mei Mei fantasized about being welcomed into the home of her sponsoring parent and live with his family in their home by the ocean. Mei, with a strong desire to be part of something more than her family of teen orphans–she wanted to belong to a culture and lifestyle which she believed only exists with her sponsor family. Mei Mei will soon find out that her years-long fantasies were nothing more than unrestricted realities.
Mei, now sixteen, along with some of the girls at her orphanage has come to Australia as part of a choir group. Mei Mei seized this as an opportunity to meet with her long-time distant family but is surprised when she finds out that Dean was living a fantasy all his own: through his postcards to Mei Mei, he told her that he was a forest ranger charged with protecting endangered animals. With his wife and two kids, they enjoyed weekends by the ocean and hoped that one day she would come there and see them–to be part of his family. However, Dean is actually in prison serving time for manslaughter. Written to Mei in his postcards were part of his invention of desire to be a husband and father, living in a home by the ocean.
Even though Mei comes to realize that everything she thought she knew about Dean and his family is a lie. She still pursues an intimate relationship with him. Dean, realizing that Mei won’t just go away–and through the suggestion of his caseworker Barbara (Claudia Karvan), that his remote financial and emotional support of Mei may prove as a favorable outcome on Dean’s pending parole hearing. It is also during these complicated customary adjustments that Mei is somehow accidentally exposed to Dean’s recent criminal past through Carl (Lincoln Lewis) and his father, crime boss Fletch (Terry Serio). Simultaneously, Miss Chen (Elaine Jin) tirelessly searches for Mei–her sudden absence is causing trouble with Australia’s immigration.
33 Postcards is a good film about a naïve character learning about life’s harshest lesson–disappointment. Not only on the part of the film’s lead protagonist, Mei–but also on the part of Dean. Both have to deal with the harshness of their situation embarrassment. The film successively depicts these difficult transitions through their interactions with secondary character relationships with all vying for some aspect of the truth.
In the end, many mistakes were made, and harsh lessons were learned; a natural part of human vulnerability.
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