Movie Review: 'Il Postino' Was A Labor Of Love
Considering recent events, I’ve been heartened to see 90% of the country agrees the post office is a very good thing. What it’s not, though, is particularly exciting. And so it’s not surprising there aren’t a ton of movies about postal workers. But one of the sweetest movies you’ll ever see is about exactly that—1994’s Il Postino.
Our postman is Mario, who lives on a small Italian island in the 1950s. Mario has only one person on his route, the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who’s been exiled to Italy because of his communist views. Mario seems to be a simple man, though he’s not unintelligent-- unlike most people on the island, he can read. He simply seems adrift, as if he’s lived most of his life without a reason for passion. But he wants to understand poetry and asks Neruda for his help, especially when he meets the beautiful Beatrice—a woman whose name has beguiled poets for centuries.
The movie is calm, and kind, and as charming as can be, but we can’t talk about it without talking about the man who played Mario, Massimo Troisi-- for a couple of reasons. First must be his performance, which is astonishingly disarming—Mario speaks quietly, moves slowly, and seems to have a severe lack of confidence, yet also appears fundamentally decent and firmly resolute in his desires.
But real heartbreak plays a part in this. Troisi’s performance is his, but it’s also heavily influenced by the fact that he was gravely ill while making the movie, enough that he could hardly move and could work only one hour a day. He’d had heart problems his entire life, and was told before shooting that he needed surgery immediately. But Il Postino was a true labor of love for Troisi, he’d been trying to get it made for years, and so he went on with the shoot. And he did finish the movie. And he did, sadly, die the day after filming ended.
But, at least, he also delivered real magic.