By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.
Writer-director Sebastian Carrasco’s six minute and twenty-four second short, “Mail Time” (2016), is quietly compelling and magical. It is also grandly emotive in the manner of silent films from the early twentieth century. This sentiment is greatly enhanced, and made all the more operatic, by the remarkably stirring, uncredited score which drives every frame of the composition. Such an element is made so herculean that even mundane bits are immersed in a magnetic cinematic light. An example of this can be spied in a mid-way sequence that involves our lead, Ted (in an enactment by Timothy J. Cox that is commanding and likable as always and made all the more impressive by the performance being completely without dialogue), sitting at home. The moment conveys volumes by merely showing him smiling giddily as he watches a magician on television.
What continues to assists matters magnificently is that Carrasco has erected a screenplay which is artistic, beautifully honed, structured and contemplative. Yet, he gives Cox room to breathe and to create. Such a decision makes Ted something special. He is a hero who, like many of us, are unaware of such a stature. This is projected through the duration to great impact here solely through the lens of his everyday actions.
The narrative focuses in on Ted’s faux magician act suddenly becoming genuine. Initially, this behavior is an undertaking he has evoked to make the grinding routine of his occupation enjoyable. This is as much for his customers, the faces he sees repeatedly and to divert the nefarious man who constantly tries to rob him, as it is for Ted’s own sense of childlike wonder and awe. It is also utilized for the sake of keeping Ted’s employment as fresh and new as possible. This also mechanizes as a method to help make the transaction between mailman and customer memorable. Almost unthinkably, genuine mysticism begins to finds its way into his life. Soon the humdrum pattern of his days are anything become anything but ordinary. Ted now has now become real-life illusionist. His once banal delivery route has become a stage, a setting for truly joyous and numinous exploits.
The piece is a simple, innocent tale at its heart. It knows this on a conscious level. Therefore, it never gives into any possible inklings lesser exhibitions of this ilk may have. This would be to make the work more complex than it needs to be. That, in itself, heightens the wonderfully old-fashioned joviality and storytelling at hand. This assists in making Carrasco’s brief endeavor all the more charming.
Carrasco’s direction is equally illuminating. It is endlessly stylish and further calls to mind similar entries which are a hundred years or more behind us. Moreover, Carrasco has a sharp sensibility of pace. This effort moves along much in the manner Ted does through his day of labor here. It is briskly casual. We glide from incident to incident with sufficient time to get a strong impression of all necessary details of the situation. Also, we never assume the sensation of being pushed along doggedly to get from point A to B. Despite this, it miraculously never feels as if it lingers or any of the sequences go on longer than they should. This is a difficult and delicate balancing act in itself. It is one worthy of great acclaim. Such is one of the many astounding feats this marvel pulls off wonderfully.
Enhancing the overall prowess of this composition is Makeela Frederick. She is excellent in her small role as The Girl. Additionally, Bernardo Salazar’s cinematography is resplendent and certainly striking. Carrasco’s editing is just as impressive. Simultaneously, the sound and make-up contributions are just as terrific as the previously stated traits. These details conduct an account, stated to have a budget of only $1,000, which is pure, exuberant delight.
Carrasco opens on a loving note. He carries that ardor respectfully, engagingly until the closing credits. Such evokes an undeniably positive experience. It is one which will undoubtedly leave even its sourest of spectators in a far better mood after viewing it. That, in itself, is a rarity. This only makes “Mail Time” all the more worthy of recommendation. To its further recognition, the touches of comedy here are natural and endlessly successful. They appear as much of the story as everything else we come across. For instance, a commencing gag in the first sequence which dramatically showcases postage articles falling onto a table in slow motion, reminiscent of something one might see in a soap opera, are where this is most effective. Such an aspect only further represents the upbeat nature of the visions radiating on-screen.
It all comes together to create a tour de force. Carassco has concocted a mesmerizing opus; a well-deserved ballad to the often unsung powers of those who take up the reins of laborer dutifully. This is a stroke of brilliance. It is one that broad ranging audiences will assuredly have no problem relating to. Carassco has provided us a touching, illuminating and enchanting masterpiece. It is as much necessary viewing for the stressed out adult who is long exhausted of the repetitive nature of our quotidian doings as it is for the wide-eyed youth lurking within. Carassco has fashioned a gentle character study. It is one that hits us on a passionate level, speaks to us and makes us want to unveil the magic in our own lives.