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One of the most schizophrenic films I’ve seen in a long time, 33 Postcards is not only a hackneyed melodrama, but an underdeveloped crime thriller as well. It was bad enough when I thought the film was an eye-rolling story about a young Chinese orphan, Mei Mei (or Little Sister), on a field-trip to Sydney, Australia, seeking out her sponsor, Dean Randall (Guy Pearce). She believes that he is a park ranger of some sort, and will rescue her from her life in China. At this point, the film was cheesy and overly sentimental, but I understood what they were going for. By the time she discovers that Dean is actually in prison for murder, and then gets caught up in Dean’s brothers car theft ring, the film just goes completely off the rails.
It’s truly surprising to see an accomplished actor such as Pearce in a role such as this, one in which he is visibly un-invested. He practically sleepwalks through the film, with no exploration of the light or darkness that must be within him. Zhu Lin, who plays Mei Mei, brings the only sign of life to the film with a performance that begs for a better movie. Her desperation throughout feels genuine, and I was able to slightly invest myself in her character through her performance.
With the exception of some beautiful scenic shots of Australia, there is no artistry to the film at all. The directing is pedestrian, providing the shots needed to tell the story and nothing more. The highest compliment I can pay to the production is that it is competent. There is no passion behind any of this, and there doesn’t appear to be any desire to escalate the material beyond the bare minimum.
As the story progresses and the stakes get higher, the film appears more and more desperate to entertain. There is nothing here we haven’t seen before, but the different pieces of the film all seem so isolated from each other, it’s like watching several movies edited together into one. There is a loose thread of a story connecting everything, but it becomes very difficult to form any sort of emotional investment when the story won’t stay focused on any one idea. Overall, 33 Postcards will leave no lasting impression and serve as simply a footnote on Guy Pearce’s filmography.