Ithaca full movie review - A little guy on a bike and a lot of sad telegrams.That's it.
"Okay, the faster you deliver messages, the more you can deliver. The faster you pick up outgoing messages, the more we can send. The more we can send, the better our chances of beating western union and staying alive.
We're postal telegraph. We get there swiftly. We're polite to everyone. We take off our hats in elevators and above all things, we never lose a telegram."
"Wow!" I thought for a minute. A drama with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks demonstrating their skills once more. Is it a sequel to the masterful romantic comedy "You've got mail"? Well, it's about sending messages for sure. But Tom Hanks won't send a lot of messages anymore. Or he's sending them from the afterlife. It's the era before the internet even existed. These were the happy days without spam or ransom-ware. But to deliver the telegram within an acceptable time frame, the telegraph services needed young boys who could ride a bike swiftly enough. And since "Ithaca" is situated during the 2nd World War, with lots of American boys fighting on the European continent, it's no surprise most of the messages brought no good news.
And that's something Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter) is facing. He's betting his life on being the fastest courier on bike ever. Despite the fact that he's racing back and forth like a kind of Cavendish the whole movie, the film on its own is rather slow. Biggest surprise was the rather limited contribution by Tom Hanks. Was he doing Meg Ryan (debuting here as a director) a favor? Or was it just to stir up the former movie chemistry? In contrast, the film was hugely predictable. I could guess early on in the film which fate Homer was quickly sprinting towards. I know it wasn't the intention to create a mysterious puzzle. But I was hoping for a little surprise. Ultimately, it's once again about fear and hope. Left behind families waiting for some news from their sons who are sent to war. And this combined with the story about a boy, who's confronted with the less pleasant events in life, while delivering these messages.
Because of the short playing time, Meg Ryan failed to unravel the fragile personality of Homer in an orderly manner. His leap to adulthood is fairly abruptly after the death of his father and the departure of his older brother. A brother who writes terribly long letters while on his way to the front, in such a prosaic writing style that it seems as if he wants to win a Pulitzer prize. The occasional reading of excerpts from these letters probably was meant to bring drama into the film. Eventually, I thought it was quite disturbing. A short playing time with a variety of story lines results in unfinished and "fast dealt with" pieces. The loss of a father figure, the responsibility as the eldest son, dutifully performing a job as a courier, the disastrous reports, war scenes, the drama of an old telegraph operator and a mother who occasionally experiences "Sixth Sense" situations. And then there are a few minor (but briefly quoted) secondary plots. It's all a bit too much.
The acting isn't really bad. But it seems like everyone is groping in the dark about his character. Especially Homer's boss Tom Spangler (Hamish Linklater) is such a blurred figure. We can be brief about Ryan and Hanks. As brief as their actual playing time. It's negligible. I only enjoyed the performances of Alex Neustaedter (obvious of course), Sam "Midnight Special" Shepard and the cute Ulysses (Spencer Howell) whose cuddle factor is very high. Especially Shepard makes a momentary impression. A brilliant and intriguing character. Eventually this coming of age story during the war makes a fairly comatose impression. It isn't really vivid.
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