Foreign Correspondent | Chicago Reader

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Mark Tapio Kines's 1998 debut feature tells two stories involving pen pals that take place around the same time at opposite ends of California. In the first a reserved young woman in LA (Melanie Lynskey of Heavenly Creatures) conceals her true identity to correspond with the French boyfriend of her apartment's previous tenant; in the second a British business student (Corin Nemec) travels to the Bay Area to meet his pen pal, a Bosnian refugee, and finds out about her marriage plans. Both Lynskey and Nemic's characters are lonely hearts, emotionally withdrawn and impervious to the possibility of love, but Lynskey's portrayal is better etched and more sympathetic than Nemec's priggish Englishman. Neither story amounts to much in terms of logic or emotional resonance, and an epilogue connecting the two trivializes the sincerity of the woman's odd obsession. But Kines's visual sense and attention to details are fairly adroit, and his graceful fades and camera movement suggest a gnawing mystery and a languorous desolation that almost compensate for the plot holes. With Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: the Next Generation).

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