Pablo Neruda has been exiled from his homeland of Chilé, forced to live on a primitive island in the Mediterranean Sea. While he lives comfortably, he and his wife, Matilde, long to return home.
Plagued by natural and social poverty, the island is simple and comprised mainly of simple people who live for their every-day tasks. It is an island of fishermen. Its shores become a backdrop for which Neruda paints his masterpieces of words.
Mario Ruoppolo is a simple man who lives with his nonverbal father. He has dreams of America in his head but dismisses them as merely dreams and nothing more when it is registered in his mind that reaching American soil one day proves impossible. He is in need of work but doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps of being a fisherman.
Wandering one day Mario happens upon the local post office, where he reads a sign on the door that indicates that help is needed from someone who is literate and has a bicycle.
He immediately walks in to apply for the job and is interviewed. Once it is proven that he can read and that he owns a bicycle he is hired. His assignment is to bring Neruda's mail to him every morning. He has strict instructions from the owner of the post office not to bother Mr. Neruda because he is a very busy man hard at work writing poetry for "the people."
With little knowledge of Neruda Mario rides to the mountaintop to deliver the large sum of mail for the poet. At first, when Ruoppolo tries to strike up conversation with Neruda, the poet's reaction is nearly nonexistent. But, over time, he begins to speak to the young man and counteracts with simple interaction.
Simple interaction grows into a
more intimate friendship
Neruda teaches Ruoppolo how to feel life, and how to sit by the sea and devour the natural beauty of "small flowers."
As the friendship intensifies, Ruoppolo finds himself quickly in love with a local girl named Beatrice Russo. Dumbfounded and childishly temperamental, he turns to his poet friend for the answers to his questions and how to win Beatrice's heart. He proposes that Neruda write a poem for Beatrice so that she may think that Mario wrote it.
While Neruda refuses to write a poem for Beatrice, he does give Ruoppolo advice, and encourages him to write poetry and create metaphors. So, taking his friend for an example, Mario begins to write his own poetry, comparing Beatrice to a butterfly.
Ruoppolo and Beatrice soon wed.
At their reception, Neruda announces that he has been granted
permission to return to his homeland. It is a lamented yet joyous
moment of the film in which everything that has existed prior finally
succeeds into its original purpose. Neruda
Ruoppolo humbly bids Neruda a farewell.
Mario and Beatrice soon decide that the name of their first child will be Pablito.
Months pass without word from Neruda, and the small island community begins to question if he was ever a friend at all. But all feelings of contempt for the poet are dismissed when a letter is received. Mario opens it only to find that it is a formal letter from Neruda's secretary requesting that all of the Neruda's belongings be shipped home to Chilé.
Mario considers himself a failure, and begins to question if he ever was friends with the world-famous Pablo Neruda.
When he goes back to Neruda's old house to collect belongings, he discovers a device he had forgotten about in which you can record your own voice and play it back. So Mario, confident that Neruda still remembers him, records all the sounds of the island: the wind, the sea, the sound of his unborn child moving in its mother's womb. Modestly and bravely Mario plunges himself into the commitment of recording all of Neruda's favorite sounds: the simple complexities that make up life, and the unbounded praise that sets a literary phenomenon.
While recording sounds on the island, Mario discovers a newfound love for his homeland, and divides his inability to see the beauty of it from his soul.
He writes a poem called "Canto a Pablo Neruda" ("Song for Pablo Neruda") and is invited to read it in front of a crowd at Naples.
In Naples, the crowd is large and full of those with eager ears. As he awaits his turn at the podium to read, he finally discovers self-worth and self-importance. When his name is called, he gladly and proudly begins to move through the crowd toward the stage. But elsewhere there is trouble, and in frantic confusion the crowd begins to riot, and gunshot blasts are heard. Mario Ruoppolo is no more.
Years later, as Pablito grows to be a toddler, Neruda finally returns to the small island. He finds that his friend is dead. Beatrice explains the recordings Mario made before his death and tells Neruda that she kept them because they were a remembrance of her late husband.
After news of Mario's death, a teary-eyed Neruda goes once more to the shores of the island and is swept away not only by nature, but by the memory of his long-lost friend.
1995 Academy Award Winner:
1995 Academy Award Nominations:
To read selected poems from the movie, The Postman (Il Postino), please click here!
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