Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Second Class Mail (1984)

Courtesy of National Film and Television School

Main image of Second Class Mail (1984)
16mm, colour, 4 mins
DirectorAlison Snowden
Production CompanyNational Film and Television School
ProducerAlison Snowden
ScriptAlison Snowden

A woman orders the perfect man by post, but is he up to the job?

Show full synopsis

Made while studying at the National Film and Television School, Alison Snowden's first film went on to have a disproportionate impact for an animated short, including the top prize at the Annecy Film Festival and the first of three Oscar nominations (she would eventually win for Bob's Birthday, 1995). David Fine, her future co-director and real-life partner, worked as an assistant animator, and amongst the miscellaneous credits are future animation giants Nick Park and Mark Baker, fellow NFTS students at the time.

Second Class Mail is a witty yet poignant study of loneliness in old age. We first see the unnamed female protagonist going out on what looks like a typical shopping trip, which turns out to be a furtive trip to send a letter to "Plain Brown Packets Ltd" of Soho. The package duly arrives, and turns out to be an inflatable man - though hardly the bronzed Adonis that one might expect, but a nondescript elderly man who's a dead ringer for the husband she doesn't have. But although he certainly looks the part, sitting on her sofa complete with carefully-applied pipe and cup of tea, he turns out to be all but useless for any other purpose, and the pun in the title quickly becomes all too apparent.

Although Second Class Mail was clearly produced on limited resources (it was made in three months at the end of her NFTS course), Snowden's distinctive visual style is already apparent. It appears deceptively cosy at first glance, with its rounded curves and simple, unthreatening lines, though an early scene where a pet canary does a loop-the-loop on its perch before expiring suggests that all is not quite what it seems. The final shot, in which the deflated "husband" is quietly binned, expresses a great deal of emotional information in an exceptionally simple, strangely mournful image.

Michael Brooke

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (4:04)
Production still
Fine, David (1960-) and Snowden, Alison (1958-)
Snowden, Alison (1958-) and Fine, David (1960-)
Women's Animation