Return To Sender is a thriller that fails to deliver (yeah, that pun was way too easy). Faoud Mikati’s film has some genuinely well developed tension but it’s ultimately all build-up, with very little pay-off. I’m not sure how much of this is artistic choice, or if the film faced the mighty chop of the UK censors. Either way, the poorly conceived climax neuters this revenge film, making it very unfulfilling. Think David Slade’s Hard Candy, only minus the bite.
Rosamund Pike’s is a rape victim who befriends her assailant Shiloh Fernandez during his time in prison. They continue their friendship when he’s released and then…there’s only 20 minutes of the film left and the revenge element belatedly comes into play.
Pike plays on the success of Gone Girl with another strong performance in a female-centered thriller (although this was shot before David Fincher‘s film). She’s the focal point of Mikati’s film and she holds the screen well although she doesn’t have a particularly warm screen presence. Nick Nolte brings a grizzled and gravelly gravitas to the role of her father and it’s a shame that he’s not given a bit more to do – you can never have too much of Nolte’s bear-like presence. Fernandez is creepy and greasy, playing his role like Joaquin Phoenix acting like Johnny Depp. He’s fine in the role, but hardly subtle.
Director Faoud Mikati has tried to put together a strong film but the whole piece is let down my the uneven structure of the tale. Patricia Beauchamp and Joe Gossett’s screenplay was either wrong from the outset or the balance was thrown in the edit. However Return To Sender really scores on the technical side. Daniel Hart’s music hits the mark and Russell Carpenter’s cinematography gives the film a dreamy, yet off-keel piece of Americana (it’s odd he’s not credited on IMDB).
Sometimes movies have the all right elements, but the alchemy is off and they just don’t work. Return To Sender is one of those films. It’s well made and acted but it fails to come together as the sum of its parts. It’s not bad – it’s just not very good. If you have the option, you should just watch Hard Candy again as you’ll come away feeling satisfied with the ending.
A short and lonely making-of documentary.