PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

'33 Postcards' Is a Classic Coming-of-Age Tale

Chinese orphan Mei-Mei and her Australian sponsor, Dean Randall, have communicated throughout postcards for years. When Mei-Mei visits Australia with the children's choir she helps direct, she discovers the truth about her sponsor and even more about herself.


33 Postcards

Director: Pauline Chan
Cast: Guy Pearce, Zhu Lin, Claudia Karvan, Elaine Jin, Rhys Muldoon, Lincoln Lewis
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures
MPAA rating: NR
Year: 2011
US Release Date: 2013-05-17
Website
Trailer

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.

Mei-Mei's journey to find and understand Mr. Randall is fraught with danger. She befriends young Carl (Lincoln Lewis), who we find likable but not entirely trustworthy. The young orphan doesn't realize that Carl is collecting protection money when she first meets him, nor does she realize that his father runs a car theft ring and chop shop. So much gets lost in translation for Mei-Mei as she makes new friends that it's hard not to sympathize with her all the more. As the movie progresses, action and suspense sequences are blended with the typical coming-of-age fair to interesting effect. The meeting of the two genres helps to broaden the film's audience while updating plotlines that might seem stale otherwise.

An excellent supporting cast lends 33 Postcards the extra push it needs to become a truly enjoyable film. Barbara (Claudia Karvan) and Tommy (Matt Nable) stand out in particular as characters bent on either building up or destroying Dean and, by extension, Mei-Mei. The deep affections that Mei-Mei awakens through these relationships reveal something rather lovely about the innocence of unspoiled youth. Yet despite her innocence, we also come to respect the young woman's sophisticated understanding of the world around her. It's proof that knowledge needn't be paired with corruption. By combining thriller-style suspense with the vulnerabilities and desires of young Mei-Mei, the director manages to create a strong emotional atmosphere that will strike a chord with many viewers. Keep tissues on hand for this one.

* * *

33 Postcards opens in select markets on Friday, May 17, and is available on demand on Vudu and the iTunes store.

6

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.