Junk Mail

Directed by Päl Sletaune. Starring Robert Skjærstad, Andrine Sæther, Per Efil Aske. (1997, NR, 85 min.)

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 12, 1998

Roy (Skjærstad) is not anyone's idea of a conventional screen hero. He is an unsavory mess whom you would neither care to have standing behind you in a market check-out line nor sitting close by in a movie theatre. Certainly, it would be distasteful to think of him delivering your mail. But, indeed, Roy is a postman. He does not cut the heroic figure of a Kevin Costner or carry off the comedic demeanor of a Cliff Claven, and it's just possible that we may be witnessing someone “going postal” -- Norwegian style. This doesn't involve guns or violence. Rather, the signs are Roy's seriously disaffected attitude and perhaps his blatant disregard for personal hygiene. While carrying letters, Roy pilfers any that might look interesting and brings them home to steam open later; those letters that he isn't in the mood to carry, he dumps in some out-of-the-way tunnel. To bathe, he throws some dish soap at his underarms and a dish rag down his pants. He's also a bit of a voyeur, so when he spies a woman shoplifting a book, he feels an instant bond. He also happens to be the woman's mail carrier, so when he one day stumbles across her keys he uses them to let himself into her apartment. He tastes her leftover breakfast cereal, listens to her answering machine, looks through the medicine cabinet, and has a dupe of the key made. On another occasion when he's in the apartment, he falls asleep on her bed and wakes up when he hears her come in. After hiding under the bed, he begins to sneak out only to discover that she is drowning herself in the tub. The unlikely hero pulls her out, calls the Norwegian equivalent of 911, and takes off. But after sharing such intimacies -- whether consciously or not -- their lives are destined to mesh. Junk Mail accomplishes the nearly impossible by taking a creepy protagonist and making us recognize the humanity in the character and feel for his situation. First-time feature film director Sletaune exerts a real mastery over the material and as Roy, Skjærstad delivers a compassionate performance. The film's deadpan tone observes numerous wry moments (a character's wan rendition of “Born to Be Wild” in a karaoke bar is a good example) and overall, Junk Mail is droll and amusing. That the repugnant Roy can be seen as a romantic hero is a testament to the transcendent charms of Junk Mail.

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Junk Mail, Päl Sletaune, Robert Skjærstad, Andrine Sæther, Per Efil Aske

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