14 July 2024

Film Review – Il Postino: The Postman (1994, Dir: Michael Radford)

Il Postino: The Postman, looks at the lonely life of timid postman Mario Ruoppolo (Massimo Troisi), living a mundane hand to mouth existence with his widowed father (Mario’s sole companion) on the remote Italian island of Procida. Hailing from a long line of fishermen, he craves a life away from tradition, and to do something better away from small minded individuals within his tight-knit community. Realising his father has no interest in his plans, dreams and aspirations, he manages to appease him by securing a position as a local postman, which leads him fatefully to the door of exiled Chilean poet and communist Pablo Neruda (Philippe Noiret).

Gradually Mario and Neruda develop a friendship as two outsiders offering each other an outlet to express their art as poets.
Initially, the childlike Mario is crushed by Neruda’s remoteness; when he signs his poetry book he coldly signs it off with ‘Regards, Pablo Neruda’. But eventually, Mario develops trust and grudging respect with Neruda when Mario offers to provide additional help outside his duties. Neruda’s largely female fan base leaves Mario in awe, as he is unable to express his love for the local sultry barmaid, Beatrice Russo (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), who works in a local village café for her aunt. Neruda is readily accustomed to a wide fan base of adoring female fans hanging on his every word through his use of romantic metaphors and helps Mario to win the hand of Beatrice despite strong opposition from Beatrice’s disapproving aunt Donna Rosa (Linda Moretti) who is later disgusted by the sensual descriptions of Mario’s love poems to Beatrice. Nevertheless, Mario and Beatrice marry in the presence of Neruda, who receives a call back to Chile at the wedding reception after working as the pair’s matchmaker.

Il Postino is an extremely bittersweet story both on screen and off. Lead actor Troisi took on joint directorial duties with Brit Michael Radford, and he also contributed towards the screenplay. Suffering a lifetime of heart problems, Troisi tragically died the day after filming was complete after postponing heart surgery. Posthumously nominated for Best Actor at The Academy Awards, Troisi delivers a touching, understated performance as the vulnerable Mario, who is initially portrayed as a simpleton, who wears his ‘heart on his sleeve’ in his interactions. When Neruda writes of his time on the island with ‘simple people’ making no special acknowledgement of their friendship on paper, Mario sadly acknowledges his insignificance to Beatrice. But Neruda spurs Mario to take a leap into the unknown as a poet and new radical speaker, and Mario takes the time to produce reams of poetry and inventive sound recordings taken from the island, which are used as a parting gift to his absent friend Neruda. Noiret provides excellent support as the no-nonsense Neruda, who, in turn, eventually comes to realise that there was a lot more to ‘Il Postino’ when he recounts their steps upon the shores of the island five years after Mario’s tragic death at a violent political demonstration, leaving Beatrice with a small son named Pabilito in his honour. Il Postino is a moving account of love, loss and longing, essentially a love triangle between Mario, Beatrice and Neruda. Michael Radford beautifully recreates every small detail; from the painfully etched face of Troisi to the windswept shores of Italy, evoking a real sense of nostalgia 23 years on.

Suitable for all ages, Il Postino is a wonderful film and is the perfect tribute to Troisi as an actor. It is a film which is worth revisiting

Lynsey Ford | [rating=4]

Comedy, Drama | UK/Italy, 1994 | PG | 15th October 2018 (UK) | Blu-Ray & DVD | Cult Films UK | Dir.Michael Radford, Massimo Troisi | Massimo Troisi, Philippe Noiret, Maria Grazia Cucinotta

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