Review by Gordon Justesen
Emily Mortimer, Gerard Butler, Sharon Small, Jack McElhone
Director: Shoner Auerbach
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: July 5, 2005
gave you the right to come in here and behave like this?”
A movie with a plot
like that of Dear Frankie could’ve
easily gone down the highly manipulative path. A story laced with this much
emotion drama could have the tendency, like that of a conventional movie, to
beat the audience like a dead horse. However, this import from Scotland strays
from those tiring formulas to deliver a much more special kind of film, one
straight from the heart.
For a movie that
does lift the spirit quite a bit, the film does happen to have a number of
heartbreaking story elements. The title character, Frankie (Jack McElhone), is a
deaf nine year old boy who has never gotten the opportunity to meet his father.
He writes letters to him on daily basis, and he gets letters sent back to him,
leading Frankie to the conclusion that he does have a father out there.
doesn’t realize is that his mother, Lizzie (Emily Mortimer), has been keeping
something from him. The truth of the situation is this; Lizzie fled from her
abusive husband when Frankie was just an infant. In order to keep the scary
truth hidden from him, she invents a story, telling Frankie that the father is
away at sea. The letters that Frankie gets sent to him are actually letters
written by the mother herself.
But Frankie soon
gets hope that his father is about to come town when he learns that the ship
mentioned in the letters, The HMS Accra, is due to dock in the Scottish town of
Glasgow where they reside. By means of keeping the act in full play, Lizzie must
find a stranger from the arriving ship and have him play the role of Frankie’s
father for just one day.
She finds a perfect
candidate in a seagoing stranger (Gerard Butler). Lizzie proposes the offer, for
which he’ll be paid for fulfilling. He accepts, and then proceeds to meet the
young boy who thinks that he’s meeting his father for the very first time.
What seems like a
quick and simple act of deception, attached to an even bigger act of deception,
soon delivers its consequence when it is discovered that this stranger takes a
liking to young Frankie. In addition, he admits to having affection for the
mother, as well. Lizzie’s will to keep up the act is challenged when she
receives news about the state of the real father.
Without giving too
much away, all I can say is that Dear
Frankie is a most engaging and very touching drama. The performances are
nothing short of top notch. The striking Emily Mortimer is thoroughly convincing
as a mother struggling between telling her son the truth and forever upholding
deception. Gerard Butler, fresh off of The Phantom of the Opera, is pitch-perfect as the stranger who
illustrates the perfect father figure. And young Jack McElhone as Frankie is one
performance that you simply have to see to believe.
First time director
Shona Auerbach, who also served as the film’s cinematographer, has made a most
outstanding debut feature. Dear Frankie
is an ideal choice for the entire family, and is a film that is likely to stay
with you in the heart long after you see it.
picture, courtesy of Miramax, is one that nicely captures the brisk landscape of
the Scottish countryside. Despite an occasional instance of image softness, the
picture is mostly clear and lively detailed, especially in outdoor shots, which
there are a lot of. Colors are nicely delivered, as well.
The 5.1 mix does
this quiet, dialogue-driven piece quite nice. The dialogue delivery is as clear
as a bell, and the Scottish set pieces provide great momentary dynamic sound. In
addition, the music provided by Alex Heffes, resonates wonderfully through the
Featured on this
disc is a commentary with director Shona Auerbach, deleted scenes with optional
commentary, an interview with Auerbach, and a well made featurette titled “The
Story of Dear Frankie”.