A lot of charm and potential cuteness gets lost in the holiday shuffle and stumbling structure of “Delivery by Christmas,” a light and what could have been more amusing seasonal romantic comedy from Poland.
A lot of packages get delivered to the wrong addresses right before Christmas. And the plucky single-mom delivery lady (Monika Frajczyk) finds herself stuck with an irate customer as passenger (Piotr Pacek) as she scrambles to undo everything the mistaken deliveries have led to.
The gist of what goes wrong in Aleksandra Kulakowska and Maciej Prykowski’s farce is that word “scrambles.” The film has no pace because the script shifts us back and forth in time, “a few hours earlier” usually. Every time we see how this or that delivery mistake had consequences, the picture pauses as it struggles to find what’s funny in those situations.
And every time we step away from our mismatched co-drivers, our investment in them as a couple drops and the stakes get lower.
Marysia (Frajczyk) is so harried at this time of year that she has to drag her pre-schooler (Franciszek Krupowicz) along on deliveries. That’s how he stumbles into Krzysiek (Pacek), a legal exec trying to get some contracts finished before the holiday.
The movie’s “meet cute” is poor little Maks running off to a restroom and realizing he’s too short to manage the man-sized urinals in Krzysiek’s office building. So Krzysiek helps, and finds himself stuck and distracted by a child fascinated by the paper shredder in his office. When Mom finally retrieves him, he’s already made a mess, so she owes Krzysiek a favor.
That’s how she’s arm-twisted into picking up his grandmother’s ring from Krzysiek’s grumpy, practical-joker grandfather (Zdzislaw Wardejn), who sends him a prank gift instead. So much for Krzysiek proposing to his live-in girlfriend on Christmas Eve.
Marysia manages to accidentally offend her new boss, a hard-drinking, unhappy loner, who drunkenly sabotages all her deliveries as revenge. She’s got to make all those botched packages right on Christmas Eve as she A) tries to track down Maks’ present, in transit and B) has to cope with Krzysiek, who for some reason won’t go over and collect the damned ring in person and straighten out this business with his grandfather like an adult.
Over a long, harried day — with repeated pauses to either revisit the original delivery or show us what “really” was dropped off, and how that boo-boo shook up the various folks on the receiving end — the two of them will motor hither and yon in a diesel delivery van as most of Poland stays home and begins celebrating.
“Delivery,” titled “Jeszcze przed swietami” in its original Polish (watch with subtitles or dubbed into English), has a guy get a sonogram photo, learning he’s a dad-to-be, throwing his family into a tizzy and him into a tailspin. Another gets a sex statue intended for someone a woman is trying to come on to, and so on.
And every time the picture stops to tell us those detour stories — only one of which is truly funny — the main narrative thread is left dangling and the romance-to-be is paid short shrift.
Frajczyk (“Leave no Traces”) and Pacek (“Bridget Bardot Forever”) are decent enough performers. Their low energy turns here point to a screenplay and structure that never generates the friction that leads to heat in a romantic comedy.
If the filmmakers had told this story in order, they might have picked up on how the picture lacks the pacing it takes for comedy to work. The filmmakers might also have realized that some of their side trips should have wound up on the cutting room floor.
Some passages engage, and many more just stumble along, halting the film’s flow as they needlessly and charmlessly delay this “Delivery by Christmas.”
Rating: TV-MA, sexual situations
Cast: Monika Frajczyk, Piotr Pacek, Franciszek Krupowicz
Credits: Directed by Aleksandra Kulakowska and Maciej Prykowski, scripted by Alexsandra Kulakowska, Maciej Prykowski and Maria PulawskaA Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37