Return to Sender ★★★ HollyShorts Film Festival

Return to Sender ★★★ HollyShorts Film Festival

Return to Sender is a strong thriller that grabs onto our fears of being watched. With the increasing dependency on the digital world, Russell Goldman shows how we are losing the control we crave for our own lives.

Director: Russell Goldman

Cast: Allison Tolman, Emma Pasarow, 


When recovering alcoholic Julia (Allison Tolman) moves into her new apartment, things she never ordered start to arrive at her door, with comments supposedly from her reviewing the items. Getting paranoid that someone is listening in on her due to the specificity of the items, Julia tries to take matters into her own hands.

Return to Sender has a great concept and a fantastic performance from Allison Tolman but has a heavily telegraphed finale that hinders all the excellent work that came before it. Unfortunately, the story’s simplicity only has it going down this direction, and while it slightly hampers the overall product, there is still an awful lot to like about this thriller.

We order from websites like Amazon so much that it has become a habit, click, and buy, click and buy. Of course, we also get those targeted ads as we know our phones and devices are listening to us in some form. What happens, though, when those items start getting physically sent to us without us ever paying for them? In Allison’s case, her story starts off with a simple mispackaged corkscrew (not something a recovering alcoholic would want reminded of). But when she has a bit of stuffiness as she roams and tries to unpack her house and some unordered nasal medicine comes her way, is that more than coincidence?

The items only ramp up from there, from balaclavas to bulletproof vests; her paranoia is ramped up to unspeakable levels that her mantra of keeping control of her situation is on the verge of getting lost. However, Allison is a strong woman who has been able to come out the other side of her addiction and claim her life back. Whether that is doing her own DIY with wallpapering or other things, she is determined to succeed.

For a long time, Return to Sender asks if we are watching a person who has an addiction become addicted to her own fears or is what she is struggling with an actual threat? She loses her temper quickly with customer agents when they cannot help her. Julia’s new life is about her gaining control, so naturally, when that control is being taken from you regarding your identity, your stress levels will naturally increase.

Her paranoia takes such control of her life (something she desperately did not need at this vulnerable point in her life) that she stops unpacking her own home. The boxes stay unpacked; other than half a wall, she hasn’t gotten started in this new phase, as if someone or something is trying to pull her away from a normal existence.

Return to Sender has you wanting to check around your house for anything that seems odd, to turn off that smart device and live a simpler life. It has a great set-up that slithers on you because of how relatable it is. We all have a fear of being watched, but to bring it to your own home just gives you unwanted shivers.


The annual Academy Awards® Qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival will celebrate its 18th year August 11-20, 2022. HollyShorts (HSFF) brings together top creators, industry leaders, and companies and has launched many filmmakers into the next stages of their careers. HollyShorts, a regular on the MovieMaker Magazine Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee list, also engages its community and spotlights short films year-round through monthly screenings, panels, and networking events. 

The most recent edition of HollyShorts had six selections nominated for Academy Awards this year with two wins for Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed’s The Long Goodbye and Ben Proudfoot’s Queen of Basketball.

HollyShorts Film Festival will take place in-person at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, and stream via Bitpix TV,  with the annual Awards Gala set to take place on August 20, 2022. 

For tickets to the festival please click here.

For more of our reviews of the festival, please check out below:


North Star


Act of God





How Do You Measure a Year?




Love, Dad

Paper Thin

Kickstart My Heart

Return to Sender

Skin & Bone


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