Alternative titles: Postman to Heaven, Heaven’s Mail Deliverer
Country: South Korea/Japan
Director: Lee Hyung Min
Cinematography: not credited
Cast: Kim Jaejoong, Han Hyo Joo, Kim Chang Wan
Runtime: 108 min
Trailer: Heaven’s Postman

Heaven’s Postman is one of seven Telecinema episodes, co-produced by SBS (South Korea) and TV Asahi (Japan) and broadcast between 2009 and 2010. The productions are of feature film length, but are more like drama specials. Although I am not clear under what conditions they are made, specials never quite achieve the quality of ‘real’ films, something that is also true for Heaven’s Postman. That said, this Telecinema episode is worth watching as it does well on a number of levels.

The title hints at the story: there is a postman that delivers letters, written by people grieving the death of a loved one, to heaven. This postman is Shin Jae Joon (Kim ‘Hero’ Jaejoong), who is seen by Jo Ha Na (Han Hyo Joo) one day when she drops off a letter for her late boyfriend at a mythical red postbox in the midst of a countryside meadow – a postbox that somehow everyone seems to know about. Thinking that Jae Joon is stealing the letters, she goes after him only to discover that he is the one who brings them to heaven.

This basic story is intriguing enough, but is fleshed out in a manner that is somewhat less so. Jae Joon’s revelation would seem to prompt a plethora of questions in just about anyone (What is he exactly? A human? An angel? Something in between? How does the postal delivery work? Where are the letters taken? Are they actually given to the addressees? What do the dead do with their post? …and so forth.) – except Ha Na. Although she does ask a few things, she is more curious about the job she has been offered by the mysterious postman and only more than halfway through the film truly begins to grasp that Jae Joon isn’t a human being like her.

The film sees the two helping mourners who have unresolved issues with their dead loved ones, for example, by posting a fabricated DNA test to put a man’s doubts about his son’s paternity to rest. But this storyline feels disjointed, with only the slowly developing relationship between the two protagonists providing some continuity between the various ‘story bits’. It also soon starts to drag. Is this – Jae Joon and Ha Na mitigating the pain of others through well-meant trickery – really all that is going to happen? Or is the film headed elsewhere, towards some grander climatic moment?

It is largely the script, written by Kitagawa Eriko, which is to be blamed here for not managing to come up with more inspiring ideas. Having seen a number of films and dramas scripted by Kitagawa, who is sometimes called “the queen of melodrama”, I have not yet been convinced by her writing skills. Although the 2006 dorama たったひとつの恋 (Tatta Hitotsu no Koi/Just One Love) was solid and refreshing in the sense that it was comparatively realistic and presented a straightforward story without the usual overused love triangles and foes, 素直になれなくて (Sunao ni Narenakute/Hard to Say I Love You, 2010) was much less compelling and left me writhing in frustration (in particular its wishy-washy ending). Kitagawa also scripted as well as directed ハルフウェイ(Harufuwei/Halfway, 2009), which equally suffered from an uninspired storyline.

In the case of Heaven’s Postman, Kitagawa apparently wrote the screenplay for Kim Jaejoong, something that does not make much sense given that Jaejoong is a K-pop singer (initially for DBKS, now for JYJ), not an actor. In fact, Heaven’s Postman was his first film. Although Jaejoong is mesmerising to look at and has a rather striking voice, his acting in Heaven’s Postman is somewhat wooden. Han Hyo Joo is more experienced, but even she cannot rescue the weaker moments of the film. While I do not have a problem with the ending per se, the final lines given to Han Hyo Joo’s character are cliché and would sound trite even coming from the mouth of the best of actors – it is thus the script, more so than the actors, that leave one wishing for more.

Where the film does well is in its use of cinematography, an area in which specials and dramas are often lacking. Just about every scene – not only because of two beautiful leads – is a feast for the eyes, presenting viewers with a very clear style and distinct colour scheme. Heaven’s Postman exemplifies what I call ‘photographic cinematography’, with stills rather than scenes becoming etched into the viewers’ minds. These memorable frames – the red postbox starkly contrasting with the bright green meadow, the washed-out lighthouse scenery, or the vanishing photographs – imbue Heaven’s Postman with a certain feel and make the visual aspect of the film a character by itself. Although the more skilled filmmakers would have woven subtle metaphors into the imagery and constructed a more layered narrative through this, Heaven’s Postman’s beautiful, one-off shots make the film worth watching even without any deeper meaning behind them.

Overall verdict: Somewhat uninspired storyline but memorable cinematography.


On a sidenote: Although I cannot recall Kim Jaejoong’s acting in Sunao ni Narenakute specifically, in the 2011 drama 보스를 지켜라 (Boseureul Jikyeora/Protect the Boss), where he plays the secondary love interest, he has certainly improved already.

Bonus Links:

  • Jaejoong’s twitter feed. He has a number of lovely sky photographs, which connect to one of the ‘story bits’ in Heaven’s Postman.
  • Coming soon: Review of Kitagawa’s ハルフウェイ(Harufuwei/Halfway).

Image Gallery (click to enlarge):