In paralleling and briefly intermingling stories of two families, one lower-class Peruvian, the other upper-class American, Postales risks the condescension of Crash, but writer-director Jash Hyde avoids Paul Haggis’s patronizing white liberal attitude toward class warfare. He aligns his narrative with the innocence of his youngest characters, who, despite their disparate backgrounds, similarly struggle against the expectations and opportunities afforded to them, all while experiencing a dawning awareness of the larger social circumstances around them. The contrasts between these families are rendered without decoration; the closest the film comes to highlighting its own class-consciousness is the juxtaposition of one families’ dinnertime quarrel in their dirt-floor home with the “family time” of the other, the latter scene beginning with altitude-sickness-prone mother Belinda’s (Annie Kozuch) complaint that her hotel-served tea is terrible.
Peruvian native Pablo (Guimel Soria Martinez) spends his days attempting to sell postcards in the public square of Cusco, not far from where his mother walks about with a llama in hopes of charging tourists for the photo opportunity, or his pickpocket brother eying the traveling women he intends to woo with a well-placed Pisco Sour. Enter Mary (Nadia Alexander) and Elisabeth (Megan Tusing), two American girls visiting the region with their father, whose business with Don Arturo (Raul Chaparro) will see Pablo’s family displaced by the impending construction of a hillside resort. A chance encounter between Pablo and Mary outside a clothing store sets a series of events into motion that, while minor, prove life-shaping.
The embittering effects of capitalism on those it marginalizes are viewed from a distance, not unlike the street urchins who wager that they can spit in a passing gringo’s eye. Postales doesn’t explicitly condemn its privileged characters or even the systems they perpetuate, but it does openly embrace a distinct optimism that the defiance of the young might ultimately lead to a better, more understanding world for all, such as how Mary’s unsanctioned trip to the ancient Saksaywaman wall (while her parents, oblivious to her whereabouts as well as their own selfishness, are content looking at paintings of the structure instead) makes way for the reparation of a past offense. Hyde’s cinematic sensibilities feel fully lived-in in their sense of time and place, and his sense of hope also suggests a fable, exquisitely rendered in such details as an innocent kiss goodbye, or a frog named Lookout returned to his family.