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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


Alice (Miranda Otto) has been writing to her absent father since she was a little girl. The letters always came back, bearing the stamp of the Dead Letter Office. Now grown up and finding herself unemployed, she gets a job in the very office, still hoping perhaps to track him down – just to see his face. It may help make her feel better. She is hired by the rather reserved manager, Frank (George DelHoyo) and taken in by the small team who run the dead end of the postal service. Prompted by the team’s work, Alice begins her quest for Dad – eventually enlisting Frank’s reluctant help. Frank, after all, prefers to leave some things alone when nothing good can come of them; he has been deeply hurt in the past, and has lived inside his shell for years. Alice’s attitude and her innocently determined quest gently unlocks the door to the shell.

"Beautifully conceived and realised, Dead Letter Office is a delightful, original film about dreams, reality and hope. While films about mail and postmen are not new, this new slant is highly original and gives ample opportunity to create an entire world which includes unseen voices of those who have left their mark in letters which end up in this collector’s shrine of unreceived messages. John Ruane’s expertise in telling off-beat stories is showcased here, while Ellery Ryan’s terrific cinematography and Roger Mason’s music capture the moodiness and evocative nature of the film. Deb Cox cleverly builds the complex characters perceptively and with insight. The entire cast is strong: Miranda Otto captivating as Alice and George DelHoyo enigmatic and charming as Frank. And the chemistry works beautifully. The staff is not allowed to read the mail - but ‘scanning the correspondence’ is okay; feeding the pigeon is not allowed - but minimum food for sustenance is acceptable. The Dead Letter Office makes up its own rules. As for the letters marked Special Cases - reserved for correspondence to God or the Universe, these are treated with respect, and kept ‘just in case’. There are magic moments - like when Alice meets her father (played by real life father, Barry Otto): uncluttered by words, emotionally honest. Dead Letter Office is a splendid surprise - a fresh, moving, delightful gem that deserves to be enjoyed."
Louise Keller

"Deceptively slow and almost awkward to begin with, Dead Letter Office gradually but surely sinks its hooks into us, creating characters we care about in the sort of way that one could say is almost old fashioned. Not much happens – on the surface – but there are nuances of suggestion, fleeting emotions registering in the eyes, attitudes reflected in the set of the face, and interactions between people who are as complicated as you and me. The unfolding of Frank’s life story, well into the film, delivers the emotional background for his character, and DelHoyo is marvellous as the man with a painful past trying to survive by isolating himself. Miranda Ottto again delivers a fully rounded character of great cinematic interest and attraction, carrying the film with her emotional range in full flight, unintentionally encouraging Frank to make contact. There is also good curiosity value in the functions of a dead letter office, best exemplified by a scene in almost real time where the team finds the right home for a lost package – in 2 minutes and 35 seconds. Terrific images, design and music complete the film. Satisfying, involving and enjoyable, Dead Letter Office does deliver."
Andrew L. Urban

"While there is an inherently sweet quality about Dead Letter Office, the film never really succeeds in engaging the viewer. It has such a surreal quality about it, that technique overshadows both character and narrative development. The idea of a young woman's search for her father within the underbelly of this dead letter office is interesting, but the film digresses too much for this principal plot to really take off. The film has some nice touches, but it's a meanderingly slow and awkward work, far more appropriate, it would seem, to television, because cinematically, Dead Letter Office is somewhat restrained. The performances are all quite acceptable, though Miranda Otto, such a strong performer at the best of times, seems to be trapped in playing similar characters with an irritating degree of repetition. As with many Australian films, the script needs much reworking, in that there's a peculiar emptiness about the whole thing. Certainly, it's heart is in the right place, but ultimately, it's a dull, directionless work that will find it tough to find an audience."
Paul Fischer

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Unfavourable: 1
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CAST: Miranda Otto, George DelHoyo, Nicholas Bell, Syd Brisbane, Georgina Naidu, Barry Otto, Jane Hall, Mark Wilson, Jillian O’Dowd, Vanessa Steele, Guillermina Ulloa, Franko Milostnik

DIRECTOR: John Ruane

PRODUCER: Denise Patience



EDITOR: Denise Haratzis

MUSIC: Roger Mason


RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: November 10, 1999


RRP: $19.95

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