Mark is a young postman at a new post in Yorkshire, England. During one delivery to a kind-hearted old woman named Mary on his route, he intercepts a letter to her and discovers it’s from her son Joseph, who’s quite far away from her, physically and emotionally. Having dropped the letter in water, he opens it to fix or repair it but finds it a bit heartless. So he decides to alter the original to be more loving.
But as he continues the ruse, Mark’s guilt starts to grow, and he is forced to decide whether or not to tell Mary the heartbreaking truth — or continue to feed the well-meaning but increasingly tricky pile of lies.
Written and directed by Anastasia Arsentyeva, this short drama is a focused, compact slice-of-life about connection and the responsibility we have to one another. Its clear, engaged storytelling aims to give voice and thought to an almost invisible phenomenon: the increased marginalization of the elderly.
Employing a naturalistic, hand-held style that is almost documentary-style in its immediacy, the images focus less on milieu and more on the story’s characters and their small enclaves within the world at large. The editing and pace move quickly, but almost anxiously, and in many ways, the style feels gritty, insular and isolated — the same way that the elderly character at the center must feel in the world.
Our entree into this world is the humble postman, who is perhaps the only person that Mary sees regularly. Actor Harry Ensor has a guileless sincerity and earnestness in his characterization of Mark, and his rapport with actor Marilyn Everett-Jones, who plays Mary, is an unaffected and easygoing one. Their connection builds slowly and believably, and what’s impactful is how the story constructs the simple act of caring and concern for one’s fellow human into something deeply moving and inspiring. As Mark and Mary discover, we all matter, and we are all connected to one another — and even the most seemingly cursory of social connections can be imbued with care, warmth and kindness.
“1.2 Million” is a work of fiction, but the social reality behind it is very real, as millions of seniors grapple with the loneliness, neglect and isolation that comes from living alone, often forgotten by society or their busy relatives. Often neglected as a population block by institutions who may focus on younger, more profitable groups for various reasons, many seniors go for an entire month without meaningful human contact, according to charity Age UK.
This isolation is a huge loss, not just for the elderly, but for the people around them, who lose out on a rich source of connection, history and wisdom. “1.2 Million” hopes to give visibility to this invisible segment of the population, who have too often been left behind in a harried, hectic modern world.