Orphan Mei-Mei (Zhu Lin) thinks she’s found the opportunity of a lifetime when she travels to Sydney for a concert with the children’s choir from her orphanage. For Mei-Mei, Australia is more than just a foreign country that offers a chance to see something new and learn a little about the wider world. It’s also the home of her long-time sponsor, Dean Randall (Guy Pearce). Though Mei-Mei and Dean have never met, they’ve exchanged dozens of postcards and letters over the course of a decade. Mei-Mei writes to Mr. Randall and tells him that she’s eager to see him while visiting from China.
But Mr. Randall doesn’t write back. Mei-Mei and her schoolmates arrive in Sydney, excited by the sights of the exotic city. Despite the joy of traveling with the children, Mei-Mei is eager to find Mr. Randall even if Miss Chen (Elaine Jin) expressly forbids her from leaving the hotel to find him. The 16-year-old girl’s journey to find her sponsor—and the truth about him—will forever alter the lives of the pair. By contrasting the postcards that Dean Randall wrote Mei-Mei with his actual life, we come to see something about how we construct ourselves in text and how powerfully we dream to be something other than ourselves. While director Pauline Chan’s 33 Postcards is predictable at times, it’s still a worthwhile movie and great coming-of-age tale.