Love, letters and computer hackers are all served up front-and-center in writer/director Jeremy Culver's slightly unusual yet warm and winning No Postage Necessary, an official selection of the 2017 Heartland Film Festival that will have its world premiere at the fest on Saturday, October 14th at 7pm with an afterparty inside the Woodbridge Pavilion at AMC Castleton Square.
The film stars George Blagden (television's Versailles) as Sam, a brilliant computer hacker who prefers to tackle corporate corruption rather than lining his pockets, though championing the underdog doesn't keep him from doing time for committing the crime. Out on probation and under the watchful eyes of Harry (Michael Beach, the CW's The 100), a probation officer with both a sense of kindness and a no nonsense discipline.
Barred from any and all internet usage and stuck in a minimum wage gig at the nearby Twistee Treat alongside fellow hacker Stanley (Robbie Kay, ABC's Once Upon A Time), Sam takes to dressing himself up as a postal worker and pilfering occasional cards and letters in hopes of snagging the occasional birthday cash.
One letter changes everything.
In a letter written to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Josie (Charleene Closshey, An Evergreen Christmas) achingly bares her vulnerable soul to her husband, a Marine killed in action in Afghanistan. This letter triggers something in Sam, something long ago lost yet seemingly trying to claw its way to the surface. Desperate to learn more about Josie, Sam steals more and more letters until he finds the courage to reach out and the two, with the slow and steady hesitancy of two wounded souls unsure of much of anything, begin to grow closer to one another with Sam's authentic renewal keeping time with Josie's ever growing hopeful heart.
However, love isn't like online poker. There's no instant winners or quick payouts. It doesn't work that way. In real life, one day you have to break those cycles and climb over those obstacles and decide once and for all if you're going to live the life you're truly meant to live.
The Heartland Film Festival is an ideal starting point for the festival journey for No Postage Necessary, a film that gains steam steadily throughout its 106-minute running time and really soars once Sam and Josie begin to make cute and remove the masks that life has thrust upon them.
At times quirky and at times almost stunning in its sincerity, No Postage Necessary exudes a simplicity and a quiet authenticity devoid of unnecessary histrionics. The conflicts that arise, at least for the most part, are natural and feel borne out of the characters themselves and never cross that line into feeling false or manufactured despite the challenges of balancing a script that dances, for the most part successfully, between the worlds of espionage, twistee treats, old-fashioned romance and contemporary wire fraud.
While No Postage Necessary is an ensemble piece, there's little denying that Charleene Closshey's compelling performance as Josie is the emotional superglue that holds it all together with a gentle simplicity and innocence that devastates with a look, a word and even just in the stillness with body language that wears her vulnerability yet never becomes enveloped by it. Quite simply, it's a quiet yet infinitely memorable performance.
Tasked with playing a vastly different range emotionally and intellectually, kudos must be given to George Blagden for constructing a performance that makes it all make sense. Convincing as both a convicted felon who has made a lifetime of bad choices and as a young man who suddenly discovers something else, Blagden doesn't necessarily weave himself into a Hallmark greeting card relationship with Closshey's Josie and Culver's ability to write a story that feels honest and leads toward a believable conclusion makes the film an immensely satisfying experience.
Among the supporting players, Robbie Kay is particularly impactful as the faith-inspired Stanley while Michelle Moreno (I Don't Feel At Home In This World Anymore) is under-utilized as Josie's daughter yet still manages to make a major impression as a troubled young girl with gobs of potential. Michael Beach, as Harry, along with Stelio Savante, as Agent Ames, and Raymond J. Barry, as Josie's father, are also particularly impressive.
Closshey contributes the film's wonderful original music, in addition to serving as a producer on the film, while Jeff Osborne's lensing manages to access the film's rich, romantic moments along with its times of more heightened drama.
Both Culver and Closshey will be in Indy for the Heartland Film Festival for the world premiere of the film and will be accessible at the film's after-party, a long tradition of the notoriously filmmaker-friendly Heartland Film Festival. For more information on the film, visit its official website linked to in the credits to the left of this review and for information on the Heartland Film Festival visit the Heartland Film website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic