Film Review: IL POSTINO


IL POSTINO’s balanced pacing and eye-catching cinematography make it a pleasure on the eye, while its charming and captivating script captures the heart

To my shame, I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with Michael Radford’s 1994 film IL POSTINO when the press release landed on my desk. Despite winning an Oscar, as well as several BAFTAs and a multitude of international awards, the foreign language film just seemed to have slipped through my net. Thankfully, I was able to discover this rare gem for the first time thanks to the release of a stunningly restored Dual Edition (Blu-ray and DVD), due for release later this month.

IL POSTINO (aka THE POSTMAN) tells the fictional story of the real-life life Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret) who, exiled from his native Chile for political reasons, finds residence on a tiny island off Italy. As such a high profile figure, Neruda receives huge quantities of mail, so much so that the local post office must hire an extra postman: Il Postino.

Though shy and poorly educated, the postman (Massimo Troisi) is so intrigued by Neruda that he devises a ploy to engage the attention of the great man. Neruda is charmed by the fresh simplicity of the postman’s enthusiasm and the unlikely duo become friends, with Neruda helping his young friend to follow his dreams, express his love and win the heart of local beauty Beatrice (Maria Grazia Cucinotta).

On first glance, it’s easy to see why Michael Radford’s masterpiece is so well liked. Set against a stunning Italian backdrop, the film’s balanced pacing and eye-catching cinematography make it a pleasure on the eye while the charming and captivating script captures the heart. But the real beauty of the film is in its quietness, encompassing a story of unusual friendship, poetry, politics, romance and heartbreak, all of which are expanded upon in ingenious and emotionally-satisfying ways.

The guiding spirit behind IL POSTINO is the late Massimo Troisi’s quietly moving performance as Mario. The Italian director and actor co-wrote the screenplay and postponed heart surgery in order to act in the title role, sadly dying the day after the movie was finished. Hesitant, shy, and uncultured, Mario has the heart of a poet, but little talent with words and Troisi plays him with such constraint and humanity that you can’t help but fall in love with the character.

Philippe Noiret is equally excellent, playing the grumpy but compassionate Neruda to perfection. Whilst Troisi is the star of IL POSTINO, Noiret is key to it all coming together, portraying Neruda as part father-figure, part dreamer and part realist and a true friend, father and teacher to Mario. Together, the pair turn this good-hearted little film into a quiet meditation on fate, tact, and poetry.

With its engaging blend of humour and sunny romance, IL POSTINO is a great movie from start to finish. None of it feels like it has been manufactured and even the stereotypical quirkiness and eccentricity of the Italians doesn’t feel wrong, just pure fun. Add in Radford’s unobtrusive yet inspired direction and Luis Enrique Bacalov’s Oscar winning emotional score and you can’t fail but to fall under IL POSTINO’s spell.

4 out of 5 stars

IL POSTINO is released in Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) on 15 October 2018